The first thing most people do when they decide to get fit is visit their local gym. Joining a gym is seen as the first step to better health, a commitment to regular exercise.
But if you can’t afford the membership fees, what can you do?
There are plenty of other routes to fitness which don’t involve membership fees – just stepping outside of your front door for a walk or run is free. And if you own a bike, cycling is free too. You can do bodyweight exercises in your garden/home – try press-ups, squats, lunges, planks, jumping jacks, burpees, or buy a skipping rope. If you Google “home workouts” you’ll get lots of free ideas for getting fit at home.
The key to getting and staying fit outside of a gym is to stay motivated. And the best way to stay motivated is to find something you enjoy. If you absolutely hate running, you’re never going to find it easy to lace up your running shoes and go out on a wet cold evening after a hard day at work. Or if you like to exercise with other people, you’re not going to look forward to doing lunges and planks alone in your lounge. So spend some time thinking about what you most enjoy, and pick your exercise accordingly. Find a friend to go cycling or running with if you like company, or look for exercise classes in local community centres. If you like dancing look for salsa or Zumba classes. And even if you choose solitary exercise, make it as enjoyable as possible – put together an uplifting playlist for your iPod, and buy some workout clothes that you’ll enjoy wearing.
Also, look into pay-as-you-go options for exercise – a swim at the local pool isn’t expensive, and you’ll find boot camps in most local parks. Most group fitness classes in local meeting places charge on a per-class basis.
One of the advantages of exercising outdoors is that you’re giving your body an opportunity to top up its levels of Vitamin D – called the sunshine vitamin, because our bodies produce it as a result of sunlight on our skin, and it improves mood in addition to its many physical benefits – that’s not something you’ll get inside a gym!
Now, if none of that motivates you, and you still feel that a gym membership would be the best route to fitness for you, it might be worth reviewing your finances. If you’re earning a fair salary, but always have nothing left at the end of the month, consider keeping a money diary for a month – record everything you spend, right down to bottles of water, newspapers, gum. You might identify a small but regular expense which you could forego to save enough money to pay for a gym membership – a £2 coffee bought on the way into the office every day adds up to £40 per month. If you’re buying a muffin too, it could be much more.
And assess your priorities. Let’s say a gym membership costs £50 per month. Sounds like a lot if you have zero left in your bank account at the end of every month. But on what other things do you spend £50? A pair of shoes you didn’t really need but just loved? Cocktails on a night out? A beauty treatment? What could you buy less often to find the money for that gym membership? If you see exercise as a chore, prioritising the cost of exercising over the instant gratification of a new outfit might be difficult, so try to focus on the result of the exercise – a fitter, leaner, more toned you.
One final thought – the most expensive gym memberships are those which are never used. So if you do find the money to invest in one, make sure you get good value by going often!