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Personal Finance

Lose Weight, Not Money

One of the ways to save money in the long term is to maintain good health. And one of the main ways to maintain good health is to exercise and be physically fit. The only problem is that while getting in shape may save money in the long term, joining a gym takes a whack at your wallet in the short term. Recently our gym membership expired. We had gotten a very good deal at a very no frills gym. But the prices for renewal had gone up and made our frugal eyes pop out of our heads. So what to do? We both like to work out almost daily, so giving up exercising altogether was not an option. Instead we explored some cheaper options. Here are some ideas we considered, and you might find helpful:

Joining the YMCA. The Y has come a long way since being a place for people down on their luck, complete with “everything for young men to enjoy.” Most YMCAs are now decent fitness centers for all kinds of people. While their membership fees are comparable to other gyms, what many people don’t know is that if you are financially strapped you can apply for financial aid. The Y wants to make health available to all comers. You fill out a form about your income, talk to someone at the Y, and work out what you can pay each month. My friend did this and only had to pay $6 a month for her membership.

If you are a student, look into your school’s gym. This is probably a no brainer. Most colleges and universities have very decent fitness facilities these days that students can use for free. But something we had forgotten is that they also have reduced rates for the spouses of students. This is what Brett and I decided to do. It is only around $10 a month for me to join, and free of course for him. The school is far away from our house, but since we have only one car, we’ll just go when I have to pick him up at night.

Exercise outdoors. This is an option that you can either use to supplement a membership at a small, cheaper gym, or, if you live in a year round warm climate, you could potentially forgo a gym membership altogether. With out last gym membership up, and the next school semester not yet started, Brett and I are between gyms. So we have been trying out different outdoor work-outs. And we have been having a great time doing it! The fresh air makes you feel healthy and strong. Here are some ideas for exercising outdoors:

  • Find a nice scenic trail to run/bike/skate on. There is a great trail here in Tulsa along the Arkansas River which provides the perfect setting for exercise. Exploring new locations adds fun and variety and will keep your motivated
  • Vary your routine. Running/jogging is an obvious choice. But the same old thing will get boring. First you can vary your running routine. Interval work-outs mix things up and burn far more fat than running at a steady pace. You can also do a hill work-out, or run the stairs at a local stadium. Next, try activities other than running. Varying your form of exercise burns more fat (your body gets used to the same exercise routine) and will save the wear and tear on your joints that doing the same thing over and over causes. Depending on what equipment you have on hand, try biking, rollerblading (my personal favorite), tennis, or basketball.
  • Look for outdoor “exercise equipment.” Many trails have stations with things like pull-up bars, push-up bars, and dip bars built along them. These outdoor exercise stations seem to have been a fad in the 1970’s, which is the era most seem to have been built in. But they have held up over time, and are an excellent way to supplement your cardio exercise with some strength training. Brett and I tried it this week and it was wonderfully intense and satisfying.

So now you know that being frugal is no excuse for being out of shape. In my next post I will further explore some exercises that can be done outside, without a gym membership or home exercise equipment.

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