How to Get in Shape for Free
Spring has finally begun to blossom. The days are getting longer and warmer, and soon trees will be lush and flowers will be in full bloom. Summer will be here in no time, which means tank tops, shorts and bikinis for some. For others, it means rock climbing, swimming or long bike rides. Unsurprisingly, spring is one of the most common times that people ramp up their fitness routines.
Just because you want to look and feel your best for summer doesn’t mean you’re made of money, though. Gym memberships, fitness apparel, fancy gadgets and home equipment can add up quickly, but you don’t have to let your budget interfere with your motivation. Here are a few ideas you can use to get moving on your fitness goals today, without spending a penny.
1. Go for a run or hike.
If you’re lucky enough to live near hiking trails, strap on some shoes and hit the dirt before hiking season starts in early June. The time outside will refresh your wintery brain and get you excited for summer, which will only increase your motivation to reach your goals. Not only that, but hiking is truly an at-your-pace sport, so if it’s been awhile since you’ve gotten off your rump or you suffer from exercise-induced asthma, you could start with a leisurely nature walk. On the other hand, if you’ve been a diligent gym rat during the cold months and are feeling a touch of cabin fever, you can pick a longer, more challenging trail or just take the hike a bit quicker.
If a hike just isn’t feasible for you, doesn’t interest you or you just don’t have the time, why not try a quick jog? Just getting outside for a walk or run will make you feel like you’ve done something – mostly because you have. Jogging slowly for just 20 to 30 minutes can burn off a small breakfast and boost your energy for the rest of the day. Not to mention, running is an efficient way to burn calories, so you’ll have time afterward to spare.
If you need a little support, never fear. There are tons of free running, hiking and walking clubs you can join anywhere in the country, like those hosted by lululemon in large cities or Meetup.com just about anywhere. These groups usually meet once a week and are a great way to meet people and have fun getting fit.
2. Parks and beaches.
If you’re lucky enough to live near a beach, then you have access to nature’s best gym. Sand adds resistance to your workout and robs you of balance, so you have to engage more muscles when doing body weight exercises. From squats and lunges to leisurely walks to running, doing your workout in sand will increase your calorie burn and muscle usage across the board.
Of course, not everybody lives close to sand. Fortunately, there are a lot of fitness parks nowadays that have free, permanent exercise equipment. These range from pull-up bars to incline balance equipment to plyo boxes (those platforms you jump onto with two feet). Some communities are even upping the ammo and putting in equipment with moving parts, like rowing machines. Many times the equipment is spaced far enough apart that you can jog from one station to the next – all the better to keep that heart rate up! Check your city’s parks website to find out more.
3. Squeeze in exercise at work and at home.
For the busier among us, finding even 30 minutes at a time to work out can be challenging. What about 10 minutes, three times a day? Research shows that the effects of exercise are cumulative, so you don’t have to do it all at once to get the full benefit. If you can fit in 10 minutes before work, 10 on your lunch break and then two five-minute bursts later on, you’re golden.
So, what’s good to do in short bursts? Walking, for one – and speed walking if you want extra credit. If you’re able to walk to work, try and do so more often. If not, head in early and park as far away as possible, or get off the bus one stop early and hoof it. Depending on your coworkers, you might be able to find a buddy who’s willing to walk around the block or perimeter of your building with you after lunch.
Walking’s good for a bit of cardio, but you’ll want to get some toning in, too. Whenever you need a quick, minute-long brain break at work, why not bust out some squats? If you’re self conscious, you can shut your office door or even sneak in a few when nobody’s watching. Don’t stop there, though! Use your water bottle or three-hole punch for bicep curls and tricep extensions, and your wall for push-ups and wall-sits. When you get home and are plopped in front of the TV, use ad breaks as sit-up or squat time. If you’re a victim of allergies or asthma, research shows that different places are better than others for these conditions, so staying indoors may be your best bet.
4. Find free equipment and classes.
If you’re resourceful enough, you can get your hands on things most people pay for – completely free to you. Most gyms offer trial memberships of one to two weeks to get people in the door, without asking for payment information. In fact, depending on your area, it may be possible to get a good couple of months’ worth of gym time for free.
The same goes for specialized gyms such as boot camps, yoga studios or cross-fit centers, which usually offer a free intro class so patrons can see if it’s a good fit before paying for a membership. Along those lines, in addition to their free running clubs, lululemon offers free yoga classes in its stores, so if there’s one near you, stop in and ask about it!
Lastly, if you really want to get something free, check Craigslist or its more credible counterpart, Freecycle.org. The latter is a website organized by locality, where people near you are literally giving things away for the sake of keeping good products out of landfills. Not only is it a green way to get rid of stuff, it’s a smart way to find what you need on a budget, and some of the most popular items are workout equipment. Not only that, but if you’re looking for something specific that’s not on your local board, you can put up a wanted ad for all other users to see.
5. Free online videos or apps.
Maybe it’s not quite warm enough where you live to rely solely on the outdoors just yet, or you’re trying to avoid spring allergies. Since you already have an Internet connection, you have access to thousands of free videos online. YouTube has hundreds of channels devoted to fitness alone, where you can choose the type and length of workout you want to do. There are also websites such as Fitnessblender.com and Bodyrock.tv, which offer a more streamlined search process so you can find what you need quickly.
If you’re a big mobile user, you can find free apps for your phone or tablet in any app store. Most of them are customizable, so you can choose the duration and intensity that fit your needs and abilities. Daily Workouts Free and Fitness Buddy Free are a couple of popular examples, but there are also popular free apps that are targeted to each and every body part you’re thinking about toning up.
This article was originally published on U.S. News Eat + Run blog.
Running photo courtesy of Shutterstock.