Every time the new year rolls around, our society adopts a collective urge to get in shape. Maybe it’s the promise of a new year and a new start, or maybe it’s just the guilt of all the holiday treats we indulged in. The problem is, January isn’t exactly the best time of year to take up jogging or cycling (especially if you live in Alberta), which means that instead of getting outside, most of us end up renewing our gym memberships in January. While this is good news for gym owners, it’s a bad news for anyone who has also resolved to stick to a budget in the new year. Why does getting in shape have to be so expensive? The answer is that it doesn’t have to be. Here are five ways to get fit (and stay indoors) this January without breaking the bank.
Build a Home Gym
A monthly gym membership may not seem expensive right now, but think about how much that monthly fee will add up to by the end of the year. Instead of making a payment every month for the rest of your life, why not invest in creating your own home gym? The initial expense may cost you a little more than a monthly gym pass, but in a few years, you’ll have saved thousands.
“Instead of making a payment every month for the rest of your life, why not invest in creating your own home gym?”
Buy Used Fitness Equipment or Make Your Own
You can save money on your home gym by buying used equipment, or even by making your own fitness equipment out of household items. Instead of buying free weights, use soup cans for small hand weights, and fill up some old jugs with water or sand to use for more heavy-duty exercises. If you’re into body sculpting, use paper plates instead of rolling equipment to help slide your body across the carpet without getting any nasty rug burn. You can even transform an old pair of tights into a resistance band. Attach the tights to a doorway and use them for resistance training, or, sitting on the floor, stretch them across your feet and pull back with both hands, simulating a rowing machine.
Bring Your Workout with You
In addition to working out at home, you can also bring your workout with you by grabbing “micro-workouts” throughout the day. Stuck behind a desk all day? Take five minutes before lunch to do some quick desk squats by slowly raising and lowering your body in and out of your chair, using the armrests for balance if necessary. Have a large office? Do some lunges across the room, and grab a few of those extra-large reference books that no one ever reads to use as hand weights. You’d be surprised how many micro-workouts you can work into a day simply by paying more attention to your activity levels. Are there times when you could be taking the stairs instead of the elevator? Even by standing at your desk instead of sitting you could burn an extra 50 calories per hour.
“Even by standing at your desk instead of sitting you could burn an extra 50 calories per hour.”
Get a Virtual Trainer
Who needs a personal trainer when you have the wonders of the Internet at your fingertips? YouTube is full of all types of instructional fitness videos, from spandex-clad retro finds to modern-day celebrity fitness instructors. Just make sure to check the credentials of any virtual fitness instructors you come across, since not all advice you get on the Internet will be good advice. You can also use your smartphone as a portable personal trainer by downloading free or inexpensive fitness apps. If you’re the type to count calories, you can use a free nutrition and fitness tracking app like MyFitnessPal to keep track of every detail of your daily diet and fitness regimen. For yoga lovers, there’s Pocket Yoga, an app that guides you through various yoga routines, and also provides a handy pose dictionary for beginners. There’s even an app called Instant Heart Rate that lets you use your smartphone to measure your heart rate – no need for a Fitbit here!
Join a Virtual Fitness Community
Even if you’re working out at home by yourself, you don’t have to work out alone; there are plenty of online communities you can look to for motivation and encouragement. For example, if you thrive on positive encouragement, check out Coach.me. Using their free habit tracker app, you can share your fitness goals with their coaching community and receive accolades when you reach your targets. Or, if you’re more motivated by peer pressure, you might want to try a community like StickK. With this app, you’ll still receive accolades from community members for reaching your goals, and you can also set up negative consequences for failing to reach targets. For example, you can get a friend to “referee” your progress, or even put down a financial deposit against your success (although if you’re trying to stay on budget, perhaps opting for the peer pressure incentive would be the safer bet). This may sound extreme, but it works; the makers of StikK have found that when users choose a referee, their chances of success increase by as much as 200%.
Want to learn more about saving money this January? Check out our article on How to Pay Off Post-Holiday Debt, or talk to one of our Financial Planners about setting up a long-term, comprehensive financial plan. And if getting fit this year is a goal for your whole family, make sure you’re taking advantage of the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit. Check out our Income Tax Cheat Sheet for more information on what tax credits you can use to your advantage this coming tax season.