We’ve all done it, haven’t we? Panicked by the thought of summer and our less-than-perfect abs, we troop down to the swankiest gym in town and sign over £500 for an annual membership. We go every evening, don’t we? We’re inspired, energised, determined and totally focused on acquiring buns of steel.
Till one rainy night near the end of the month we decide that it’s just a little too miserable out there, and we’re just a little too hungry, and well, we’ve been good for weeks now, don’t we deserve a night off?
So we rush home and make a nest on the sofa with a sticky toffee pudding and before we know two months have passed. Sound familiar? I bet it does.
That’s how gyms all over the country make their money and why they’re so keen to lock you into a twelve month deal: they know that the percentage of people who’ll still be working out regularly come autumn is tiny. Skint girls don’t fall for their tricks. We develop different ways of getting our exercise, while saving ourselves a bundle. Here are ten alternatives to a pricey gym membership.
10 Ways To Slash Fitness Costs
Run Like The Wind
Running is the ultimate multi-tasker’s exercise: it provides fresh air and daylight at the same time as exercise. Who would choose to be stuck in the sweaty gym when they could be running with the squirrels in the park? It’s a great hands-free exercise, too. I listen to music and favourite radio programmes on my iPod as I run and have a friend who learnt Spanish in run-sized chunks, day by day. For my money, running really is the biggest bang-for-your-buck exercise around.
Walk The Walk
Another perfect exercise for busy folks. You can walk fast and with purpose to the shops or the library to take back all those great free books you borrowed. You can get off the bus two stops early and walk the last part of the journey to meet friends, arriving with a better glow in your cheeks than blusher could ever give.
The best thing about walking is that you can do it anywhere: it’s a terrific time-saving exercise because the second you step out of your door you’re good to go. Not many of us can squeeze in the gym at lunchtime: not by the time we get there, get changed, do our workout, shower afterwards and do the return trip to the office. But keep a pair of trainers under your desk at work and you’re all set.
Take your lunch with you, stride out briskly to a park, then eat your sarnies beside the duckpond. March back to the office and you’ll feel energised for the afternoon ahead.
There are some great fitness trackers by Jawbone and Fitbit that track your steps too.
Take A Hike
Team up with pals and climb a hill on the weekend. Getting out of the city and into the country for a day can feel like a mini-holiday. You’ve got the luxury of a few uninterrupted hours to catch up with friends and the view from the top tends to put the worries of the week into perspective.
By the time you descend, you’ll feel like a new person – and you’ll have earned the coffee and home baking in that café at the bottom! Wasn’t that more fun than trawling round the shops?
I love cycling but only in summer. Battling through the rain and wind just isn’t for me, but give me a sunny morning and a cycle to work through the park and I couldn’t be happier. You can get a decent second-hand bike for £70, which pays for itself fairly soon in terms of money saved on bus fares.
Your legs will thank you for it almost straight away – cycling is fantastic for toning the calves. And what I really love about cycling is the endless opportunity for delicious detours. Cycling through unknown areas on a sunny day, letting your interest carry you down new streets, becomes almost meditative.
One thing that puts people off using their bike to get to work is the problem of carrying their stuff. If you take a handbag and/or lunchbox to work you’ll do best to buy a bike with a basket on front. Very chic and Parisian. Just remember to keep a big plastic bag in the basket so you can protect your belongings in unexpected showers.
If you tend to carry more stuff, e.g. a laptop, invest in a couple of panniers. This opens up a world of possibilities – suddenly you can stuff a few clothes and a toothbrush in and take off on a Saturday morning for the weekend. It’s freedom like no other.
Not just for the playground, hula hooping (or power-hooping as it’s now sometimes known) is fantastic exercise. Do it in front of the telly for just ten minutes every night and I promise you’ll have a better waist than Jessica Rabbit within days. Hula hooping would be my desert island exercise of choice.
Another oldie but goodie. As well as making you feel like a kid again (see if you can still remember those playground skipping rhymes!), skipping is a fantastic calorie burner. Well, did you ever see a flabby boxer? Buy a skipping rope with weighted handles (you can pick one up for under £10) for an extra arm workout.
Mat work isn’t just for the aerobics class. Sit-ups, push-ups and leg extensions can all be done while watching telly in your front room – bonus! See how many sit-ups you can do during the adverts – and make yourself keep going till the programme comes back on.
Some pieces of gym equipment can be cheaply bought and easily adapted for your home workout. Gym balls, for example, can be used for exercising just about every part of your body. Try a class first to get tips on making the most of them, then you’re good to go. These darlings can also be used in place of a chair at your computer desk: they’re incredibly comfortable and brilliant for the posture.
Two bottles of water or some unopened tins make great weights and even if you splash out on a set of dumbbells, they’ll cost you less than £20 – half the price of one month’s gym membership.
Take The Stairs
By now we all know that we should ditch the lift at work and take the stairs. We all know we should eat alfalfa sprouts, too – doesn’t mean we do it. But even taking the lift for four floors and just walking the last two will show on your butt. And if it’s too much to think about during your working day, run up and down the bottom two stairs continually for five minutes at home while dinner’s cooking – you’ll quickly see the benefits.
Don’t want to shell out on a range of pricey exercise DVDs? Then look to the web for plenty of free workouts on every exercise type under the sun. From Pilates to kickboxing there are now workouts to suit every taste available absolutely gratis in cyberspace.
Here are a couple of free online resources that can really help you make the most of your workouts:
This app uses your GPS to track your outdoor workouts. Simply start the app and it marks your route, showing your distance covered, time, pace, speed and more. You can also log in afterwards and view all your stats at MapMyFitness.com, so you can compare today’s performance with yesterday’s. Cost:free.
This is my fitness site and app of choice. Tells you how far and fast you went – that’s it. Useful for curious runners, cyclists or walkers. Warning, it gets kind of addictive. Cost: free
Skint in the City writes about living the stylish life on a shoestring budget, such as how to buy Pucci and decorate apartments even when you’re living on a starter’s salary. Mixing down-to-earth personal finance with tips on budget style, entertaining and home styling, Skint in the City is for those who haven’t given up on their dreams of living the stylish life – even if their budget’s currently tighter than their skinny jeans.