Get Fit without Ruining Your Budget

Apparently the third Monday in January is the saddest day of the year. Researchers determined this because this is the day you’ll receive holiday credit card bills and this is the day most people realize those resolutions have failed. Here are some tips for renewing that resolution to get in shape without busting your budget.

Find a Gym Near Your Office
If you ran out and joined a gym near your house, see if they have a branch near your office that you can either switch to or use as well. That way you can visit the gym on your lunch. Not only does it fit well into your schedule, but you’ll find that you’re more productive in the afternoon. I’m fortunate that I can walk to my gym, but if you don’t have one in walking distance, look for a five-minute drive or less. That will give you enough time to do some real exercise.

Get a Guest Pass
If you haven’t already joined a gym and want to, ask for a one-week guest pass before you join. If you don’t use your guest pass much during that week, don’t join the gym. You can get fit with other options instead

Join with Family Members
Family members usually get a discount, so have yourself added to your spouse’s membership if you’ll actually visit that gym or chain. Not only can you encourage each other, but the second membership will be cheaper and probably won’t require start-up fees.

Ask for a Discount
Gyms are always running specials. Ask for one. If they don’t give you a good deal, walk away. Then go home and research offers online. Most chain gyms display their offers right on their website. Print it out and then go back to talk to the manager.

Hire a Trainer for a Few Sessions
Trainers are expensive, but I was in the best shape of my life after working with a trainer once a week for six months. Alas, I couldn’t maintain the expense, but I did hire one for five weeks recently to show me how to use new machines and learn new techniques. Most gyms have an introductory training special. My gym, 24-Hour Fitness, offer 5 sessions for around $50 for first-time buyers. Yes, you’ll get pressured to buy more sessions, but you can say no.

At the very least, take the free introductory session offered when you join. They’ll cover the basics on using the machines and recommend the right machines for you. Don’t watch other members to learn how to use them because most people use them improperly. At best, you won’t see much improvement. At worst, you’ll get hurt.

Trainers will also help you fine-tune your cardio exercises. Most people do that wrong, too. You don’t have to go at top speed the whole time. In fact, you’ll lose more fat if you vary the pace and change machines from time to time.

Quit if You Hate It or Don’t Go
Most gyms have a cancellation fee, but that fee is much lower than the cost of continuing to pay out the rest of your contract. If you’re simply not going to go, bite the bullet and pay the cancellation fee.

Exercise at Home
As I mentioned yesterday, it’s possible to get in shape at home. All you need is a plastic stool and some free weights. You might also want resistance bands or a balance ball. You can find most of this stuff at Target or a local sporting goods store. Watch the Sunday newspaper ads for sales, or check online. Free weights are usually $1 a pound, but I’ve found them for half that during sales. I recommend the neoprene-covered weights because metal weights can be slippery. Now go online to women’s magazines, men’s magazines, and fitness sites to find free workouts you can print out. Some sites allow you to enter some data to customize them to your needs. Look for routines with pictures or videos so you can see how to do the moves properly.

If you have cable, check your On Demand menu. Mine has several exercise programs, and some of them are very tough. Try several until you settle on one you like. Since these programs are already included in the cost of your cable, this is a free option. Most of the shows don’t require any accessories. You can also check your library for exercise videos.

If you don’t want to exercise at home or at a gym, consider walking. All you need are walking shoes, a ski hat for colder days, and maybe a sports bra for women (change in the office bathroom.) Most walkers don’t work up a sweat, so you won’t need to shower afterwards. You can easily do it on your lunch hour. If you live in a wet or snowy climate, you can also walk in the mall. Just make sure you leave your money and credit cards in your office, not in your wallet!

Consider Buying Wii Fit
If you already have a Wii, then consider getting Wii Fit. It’s expected to cost around $70 and release later this month. It offers a variety of programs and will track your results. You can also compete with family members. It’s definitely cheaper than joining a gym if you already have a Wii. If the Wii is in your family room, it’s also harder to avoid than the gym.

I work out part time at the gym and part time at home. The combination works well for me. Even if you don’t want to spend a lot, you can find a way to get in shape and keep your budget in good shape, too.

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