Get Fit for Free (or Close to It!)
January is the quintessential month for wellness, as many of us vow that this will be the year we lose those five pounds — or at least start exercising regularly. (In the wake of all that holiday indulging — and subsequent lounging — it's no wonder many of our resolutions revolve around developing a healthier, more active lifestyle.)
But getting in shape can be costly: Pilates classes are now $25 a pop in some places, and the price of a personal trainer is completely out of reach for many. Luckily, you don't need a whole lot of green to get yourself in fighting shape. Here are 12 easy, (almost) free ways to get fit.
Make Your Socializing Exercising
Yes, heading to happy hour with your best friend sounds far more fun than going on a run with her, but making a commitment to exercising with a buddy will make working out more enjoyable and ensures that you'll stay motivated, says personal trainer and fitness coach Mackenzie Kelly. (Plus, doing something outside together is totally free versus shelling out $12 for each glass of wine.) Make a commitment to keep your social calendar active, whether it's swapping brunch with the girls for a morning hike or going for a long walk (slash catch-up session) instead of gabbing away — sedentarily — in a coffee shop.
Get One Free
Many yoga and Pilates studios offer “first class free” deals, and they are worth taking advantage of, given the typical cost per class. Plus, trying classes from different teachers with different styles is a great way to trick your body into working in new ways, helping you break out of your routine.
Train Once to Find a Routine
Most gyms will try to sell you on pricey personal training packages, and while these sessions will certainly help whittle your waistline, they'll also do the same to your bank account. Instead of signing up for a block of training, cash in on your initial complimentary session (offered by most gyms), then continue to use what you learn from the routine on your own.
Take Advantage of Digital Resources
There are a number of free ways to get fit online, Kelly says. Search YouTube to find a plethora of at-home workouts, featuring actual trainers, that require no equipment. Or download one of the many free fitness and wellness apps, such as Nike Training Club, which provides video tutorials of all sorts of exercises, and MyFitnessPal, which allows you to track workouts and food intake.
Sign Up for Online Classes
If you're more motivated by structured classes to guide you through your workouts, websites like FitnessGlo and MyYogaOnline offer unlimited classes for a small, once-a-month fee ($10 to $12). Classes are taught by vetted, certified instructors and are ideal for people who travel a lot or those who have a hard time fitting traditional exercise classes in their busy schedules. For added motivation, invite some friends over and work out together in the comfort of your living room.
Take the Stairs
There are many free exercise opportunities you're likely not taking advantage of, Kelly says. For example, use the stairs instead of the elevator or even park a little further away than you normally would (or get off the bus one stop early). A daily 10-to-15-minute walk can burn a few hundred more calories than you normally would, she says.
Sure, making a little time in your day to move around a bit may cost you a bit of time, but it's worth the results as far as how you'll look and feel.
Get in a Stretch
Stretching might not make you sweat, but it can burn calories — and keep your muscles lithe and ready for your next workout.
Expert trainer Michelle Dozois suggests giving your flexibility a boost in just a few minutes while you're at work by doing the following series of movements: First, while sitting in your desk chair, slip off your shoes, bend one knee and point your toe. Then, slowly stretch the leg forward and flex your foot. Repeat on the other side. Second, place a book between your knees, and squeeze it to activate your inner thighs. Holding your position, spread your feet wide and keep your abdominal muscles engaged as you hinge forward to feel the stretch in your hips. Then, stand up and move into a lunge position, then press your hips forward for a nice hip flexor stretch. Hold, and then repeat on the other side. Lastly, hinge forward from your hips, and stretch your arms long on your desk. You'll feel this stretch in the back of your legs in your hamstrings.
Swap Your Afternoon Latte for a Wake-Up Workout
By sitting for long periods of time, your energy level and mood can decrease. Get your blood flowing and your metabolism going with a series of exercises from motivational speaker and trainer Petra Kolber. First, stand up, slip off your heels and begin to lunge from side to side, rotating your body and allowing your arms to swing with you for 30 seconds. Then, keeping the lunges going, tap the opposite shoulder with each hand for another 30 seconds. Pause and take a deep inhale, lifting the arms out and up. Exhale, then turn the palms towards the floor and draw the hands down in front your body. Repeat. Finally, repeat the lunges from side to side with added deep exhales with each rotation for another 30 seconds.
Scour Your House for Free Workout Props
You don’t need to spend a fortune on expensive workout equipment to get fit, Kolber says. In fact, you can set up your own circuit training series right at home if you have some non-slip sneakers, stairs and some weighty stand-ins for dumbbells.
First, walk in place for three to five minutes. Next, climb the stairs two at a time for one minute, keeping your knees in line with your toes. Return to a standing position with knees slightly bent — use two cans of soup or water bottles for bicep curls for one minute. Finish with sit-ups for one minute with your feet on the floor or the sofa. Then, repeat this series three to five times.
Get Toned Glutes Anywhere
Jennifer Williams, creator of the popular barre workout Pop Physique, says that you can actually tighten and lift your seat — yes, even when you're sitting down. First, engage both glutes by squeezing them together. (An isometric hold is best, she says — as in, the longer you hold the squeeze without releasing, the better.) Do this every day, whenever you think of it — when you're waiting for a meeting to start, while seated at work or watching a movie. You'll notice your seat will be firmer and tighter the more often you do it.
Bust Out Your Playlist
In 2009, a study published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology found that motivational, synchronized music led to a 15 percent improvement in endurance. Make your workouts more intense, suggests fitness expert Alex McLean, by making yourself a new music playlist with the best upbeat tunes you already have, and then challenge yourself to increase your speed or intensity during the chorus of each song. Another way to get your heart rate going? Next time you're cleaning house or doing yardwork, put on a Spotify playlist that will pump you up and get you moving — and grooving — a bit faster than normal.
By incorporating a powerful exhale into your daily routine, you'll end up with a stronger core and flatter stomach for free, Williams says. Start by drawing in a deep breath through your nose, then blow out through your mouth (think: audible exhale) while engaging the abdominals. Every time you exhale, feel your abs contract. The more you do this, the deeper into the abs you will get. Repeat this as many times in the day as you think of it.