Working with clients who are fighting hard to get out of debt has opened my eyes to something I’m a little ashamed of. For the ones that scrutinize every line item in the budget and negotiate most bills received, the ability to exercise at a well-equipped gym is a luxury and if you even think about mentioning that it’s possible to workout for free, alarm bells start ringing!
I’d ask the question, “Any gym membership to work in here?” and every time there’s a short terse response – “No.” That’s usually followed by a “Are you really serious with that question?” look. Then I’d follow with, “Have you considered trying to workout for free?” …Same look…
I won’t stop with other’s experiences. My wife and I agonized over whether or not we could afford a membership fee to the local YMCA. There was the exercise equipment, sure, but there was also the pool, workout classes, youth sports, and convenience that all weighed heavily in favor of paying the fee. But the price… I mean, how could we justify a nearly 4-figure annual expense for a place to workout and do some swimming?
You can’t put a price on fitness
According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise :
Combats health conditions and diseases
Helps you sleep better
Sparks your sex life
Can be fun and social
We ponied up the fee and have been using our ‘Y’ for the last 3 years. It turned out to be a great decision for all members of the team!
But what about the people that actually can’t afford or justify the large gym membership
It’s no longer a question of whether you want to spend the money or not – the cash just isn’t available for you to make that decision. Now what?
Now it’s time to get creative. I’ve seen how others can take one look at their monthly budget, realize that the gym doesn’t fit, and just completely discount exercise and fitness all together. After reading the benefits of regular exercise above and experiencing my life on the regular – I know that fitness is paramount! …It’s so important that I chose it as a bullet point in my site’s tagline…
“Invested in Finance, Fitness, and Family…” See what I mean? Now you know it’s for real… The reason I listed Fitness here is simple – without fitness, whatever other goals you have will either be (at a minimum) limited or (more likely) impossible to achieve. So let’s prioritize fitness regardless of the cost, eh!?!? And no worries, if cost is a determining factor, I’ve got you covered with legit workouts that you can do for FREE in this post!
Here are 7 actual things I’ve done (or seen people do) when the money got tight. And if you give them a shot, you’ll see that YES – You Can Consistently Workout for FREE.
1- Anywhere calisthenics
Find yourself a 6’ x 3’ space (at a minimum) and you’ve got all the tools necessary for burpees, pushups, squats, wall-sits, abs, jumping jacks, high knees, planks, and a myriad of other activities. If you don’t think a workout like this can be legit, set a stopwatch for 5 minutes and see how many burpees you can do in that time. I bet you’ll start sweating profusely.
This category also includes heading outside for a run, bike ride, hike, or walk with the kiddos (if applicable). These don’t have to be stand-alone events either. You can try and build them into your day. Need to ‘run’ to the store? If the distance isn’t too great, try and use your legs or bike this time. I’ll commonly run the mile to my daughter’s school to pick her up and then we’ll walk back home together. She loves it and I’m getting some free exercise.
Find a way to work just one of these into each day and you’re on your way to a healthier you!
2- Trial membership guy
I never said I’m proud of this list… But there was a time when I went from gym to gym “exploring my options” and utilizing their 1-week free memberships. We live in a decent-sized city and there are plenty of options to choose from.
The first day is a little awkward while you’re taking the tour and seeing if the space could suit your needs, but after that 15-minute – we’ll call it a – warmup is done, you’ve got the run of the place just like a paying customer. In this example, you’ve got all the workout options available to you with the inconvenience of changing up locations every week. Hey – when times are tight…
3- Playground/Park warrior
We didn’t always live in the big city. There was a 15-month time that we lived about 30-minutes outside of town in an area that didn’t have the cornucopia of gym options. You know what they did have? Schools with playgrounds.
I’d take a 10-minute run to the playground as a warmup and do pull-ups on the monkey bars, box-jumps onto a platform, then turn around and use the platform for dips. If you’re looking hard enough – there’s a great workout to be had at the playground.
If the school doesn’t have an appropriate location, I’ve gone to parks early in the morning to get the same kind of workout in. Probably the main thing here is to make sure you’re using these areas during off hours. If it’s not crazy early or late, I’ll ask my wife and daughter to tag along so I’m not just the crazy guy doing pull-ups on the monkey bars. Now, I’m the crazy dad that’s just fitting a workout into a busy day…
4- Pool crasher
Contrary to popular opinion, it is not an obligation to have a Mai-Tai in hand any time you’re at the pool. I’ll take it one step further and say that it’s normally pretty easy to crash some apartment complex pool… Even if you don’t live there.
I’ll say that as long as you’re not being destructive or out-of-your-way-defiant toward someone else’s property, there’s no shame in either opening or hopping a fence at 6:30 am or 9:00 pm to swim some laps… Closing time for pools is a loose suggestion, right?
There are even some pools in my area that don’t get much action during peek hours if the weather’s not ideal. I would love it raining on a summer day back when we lived in apartments – that only meant one thing. The “lap” pool was open!
5- Hometown Macgyver / Competitive chores
The great thing about your “home weight set” is that resistance levels vary from side dish to sofa. And in this scenario, you’re only limited by your imagination.
I’ve filled up suitcases with water bottles, incorporated the steps in our house, and rearranged the furniture… quickly. If you’re looking for a legit workout it’s there for you.
Also – you know those chores you hate doing every weekend? Yeah, same here. Let’s make a game out of it!
Set a stopwatch, run from bathroom-to-bathroom and see how fast you can knock out your set of chores. I would attach a reward or punishment onto the end of my cleaning sesh…
If I beat my time from last week it’s only 50 push-ups & 50 leg raises. If I’m slower this week, take those numbers to 100 and add the same amount of burpees for good measure. That stick will light a fire, let me tell you.
6- Online workout videos
It seems like everyone wants to be YouTube Famous these days – use that to your advantage! In the modern age of putting yourself out there, it is so easy to find excellent and effective content on the internet. A quick Google or YouTube search for “Great 30-minute workout” and I’m filled with ideas for a week.
Go ahead and give a few of these videos a shot. You’ll benefit from the workouts and the YouTuber will love your clicks… Take it from a blogger!
7- Bonus – Date a personal trainer
OK – this is the only category in my list that I haven’t done… But… Some of my friends have done this and in college playing football, I spent so much time with our strength and conditioning coach that it felt like we were dating.
Who knows, Mr. or Ms. Right may just happen to be well-versed in workouts. Why should that not be an indirect benefit to you?
If the above confirms anything for you, let it be that you don’t need the expensive gym membership. Hey, if you can pony up and pay for it – by all means (we do it)! But, if you’re cash strapped, there are plenty of ways to get after it. The only cost to becoming physically fit at this point is discipline. Can you spare some?
What do you think of my list? Do you do any of these categories and what success or frustration have you had? Are you cool with trying something new?
Let us know in the comments section below and we’ll keep this conversation going!
Thanks for reading!
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