This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure for more information.
The average gym membership costs between $40-$50 per month. That’s $480-$600 per year. Applying that amount to your debt could shave off years of payments and save you thousands of dollars in interest. Why not put that money to better use (like buying pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and coffee) and try an at home workout?
But I have to be completely honest – that statistic doesn’t really apply to me personally.
I hate going to the gym.
For a long time I gave up on exercising for that simple fact. In high school, I ran track pretty seriously, so I spent a lot of my time after school running and lifting weights.
Then I went to college and rather than gaining the infamous “Freshman 15” I started losing weight as my muscle disappeared and fat took its place.
I wanted to get back in shape, but I hated going to the gym and I hated long-distance running (I was a sprinter and jumper back in my day), and it seemed like those were the only ways.
I was ill-informed and, quite frankly, just plain lazy.
Because the truth is, there are SO many ways to exercise and stay in shape that don’t involve going to a sweaty, packed gym. It took me waaaaayy too long to figure this out. Whether you have a gym membership you’re looking to drop or want to figure out how to get in shape without going to the gym, I’ve got you covered!
Here are my favorite fun and frugal ways to be fit WITHOUT a gym membership.
Suspension training is a workout method that was got its start in the Navy SEALs. It involves using your body weight and some sort of suspension system to exercise, and it’s great for developing strength, balance, and core stability.
I use the TRX Suspension Trainer for awesome at-home workouts. It’s easy to set up and fits pretty much anywhere, even on the back of a door. It’s also lightweight and doesn’t take up much space, so it’s perfect for working out on the go. My favorite thing about the TRX is that there are a TON of workout videos online, so you never have to worry about not knowing what the heck to do, which always seems to be my problem when I work out. The TRX YouTube channel provides plenty of inspiration.
It is somewhat of an investment up front (~$100), but it’s worth it if you ask me. Not to mention, if you’re looking at a $40/month gym membership vs. $100 training system, the TRX pays for itself in about 10 weeks. I’ll take that!
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Interval training is just alternating between short periods of intense activity and short periods of lighter activity. It’s great for burning calories, increasing aerobic capacity, and best of all – you don’t need any equipment whatsoever!
I use tabatatimer.com (website + app available) to track my intervals when I’m working out and remind me when it’s time to switch. If you’re interested in learning more, BuiltLean.com has an awesome article with some HIIT workout ideas.
Go For a Run
As I mentioned earlier, I am not a runner. However, some people really like it! There are obvious health benefits to running, such as decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s also flexible – you can run anywhere and pretty much any time.
If you decide to make running a part of your regular workout routine, I highly recommend looking into wide toe box, minimalist shoes. As a former runner, I used to get foot cramps like nobody’s business until I found shoes that actually give my feet room to move and breathe. Check out the Prio by Xero and Primal 2 by Lems and see if either tickle your fancy. (Not affiliate links, I just really love these shoes and I want your feet to love you.)
Free Workout Apps
It seems like there’s a new fitness app out every week, and a lot of them are FREE or at least have free versions. There are workout apps specifically for yoga, running, weightlifting, you name it.
Some of my favorites are Workout Trainer (Free, iOS + Android), Nike+ Training Club (Free, iOS + Android), and Yoga Studio ($3.99, iOS + Android).
YouTube (Workouts + Yoga)
Ah, YouTube. If you can hop on and not get distracted by X Factor singing videos and find yourself watching a documentary about Killer Whales two hours later having jumped to every genre of video in between, then YouTube can be a great workout resource. This is how I first got into yoga years ago.
Some of my favorite channels for YouTube yoga include Fightmaster Yoga, Yoga With Tim, Yoga by Candace, Kino Yoga, and Ekhart Yoga. All of these teachers have videos for every level from beginner to advanced, and each has their own unique style.
Seriously, though, it’s easy to get distracted and waste time. You’ve been forewarned (as if you don’t do it already – we all do).
If you don’t know what hoop dancing is, it’s pretty much what it sounds like – dancing with a hula hoop. And it’s SO MUCH FUN. I started hooping back in college when I met one of my best [hippie] friends, Bri. It’s not as easy as it looks, but it’s a great workout and it looks and feels sexy. Hooping has given me a lot of confidence.
For some inspiration, check out Audrey Scherer’s YouTube channel.
Note: This blog post is starting to look like a “Megan’s Favorite YouTube Channels” resource guide. Also, I just got super distracted watching video after video of hoop dancing. YouTube, staaaaahhhp!
Hiking is a great way to get in some exercise while enjoying the great outdoors. Most trails are free to park and hike, while others may cost a few dollars. In addition the physical aspect of hiking, it’s also an awesome stress relief and distraction from the never-slow-down way of life most of us are accustomed to nowadays. Check out the beauty of nature in your neck of the woods.
Free Gym and Yoga Community Classes
Attending free community classes or workshops is a really good way to exercise on the cheap while meeting new people. It also gives you a chance to try new classes or things you might not have otherwise. In my area there are community yoga classes every weekend and free classes of various types at local gyms, and I live in a small town.
I’ve found Facebook to be extremely useful for these kinds of things. If you’re having trouble finding free exercise classes, browse around Facebook a bit. Search for gyms in your area or type in your city/town and then an activity you’re interested in (Example: Blacksburg Acro Yoga). That’s how I came across the acro yoga group in my community.
You can also search on MeetUps.com for groups you’re interested in.
Riding bikes can save money on a number of fronts. On the one hand, you’re not spending money to exercise at a gym, but you’re also saving money on gas if you opt for your bike rather than your car. If there are to-dos that don’t require a lot of heavy lifting (e.g. getting the mail, dropping off packages, meeting with friends, etc.) and they’re within a reasonable distance, then biking is the perfect way to exercise while getting things done. Two birds, one stone.
Do you miss feeling like part of a team working towards a common goal? Do you sometimes dream about the good ol’ days when your high school team was the one to beat? That time you caught the winning touchdown pass at States or hit a grand slam to bring your team the victory?
If you’re a group sports person, then joining a local recreational sports team could be a great way to switch up your exercise routine. The benefits of group sports go beyond physical. Being part of a team helps build self esteem and instills a sense of community, among other things.
What are your favorite non-gym-related ways to stay in shape?
I’m a financial coach and author + owner of Goodbye to Broke. I love all things personal finance, money management, and healthy living. And I talk to my dog way too much, if we’re being honest.