How to get in Shape Without Spending a Fortune

This is a guest post by Dave, who is also looking to retire no later than 45, but unlike Tim has no kids and doesn’t want any.  Dave is from Ontario and is working towards his CGA certification.

I spend around $45 every month on a gym membership.  This is one of the main “frivolous” things that I spend money on continuously (other than golf in the summer) and I would say that I really get my money’s worth.  The main reason that I actually use my gym membership is that the gym is less than a two minute walk from my office (right across the road).  I go there to lift heavy weights and sweat a bit, something I don’t do a whole lot of sitting a desk looking at numbers all day.

If I changed jobs I would probably drop my membership at the gym, as I know I wouldn’t find the time before or after work to make it to the gym.  I know there are a lot of people out there who don’t have access to a gym and may want to get in better shape or lose some weight.  So here are some things that I would do that are low cost to get in shape.

  1. Walk: Everyone would benefit from going for a walk.  Take your spouse/kids/dog or put on your i-pod and walk for a half-hour or more.  Walking is a good time to catch up with your spouse and gets you get some sun (very beneficial) and pretty much anyone at any weight should be able to do it for a little while.  Personally, I find walking much easier on my joints and much more social than running.   The other benefit of walking is that it is free other than the wear on your shoes.
  2. Body-weight exercises: Three simple exercises – squats, pushups and pull-ups (or modified versions) can provide enough of a basic workout to provide some benefit and doesn’t require any equipment (although a doorway chin-up bar would be nice since it is better than doing pull-ups while little kids are trying to climb on the jungle-gym).
  3. Kettlebells: If I didn’t have access to a gym, I would buy one of these.  I would mostly use this to mix up my workouts and keep things interesting.  These are kind of expensive (around $80 – $100 for the weight that I would need) but on a per-use cost it works out pretty low and they can be resold for basically the same price that you buy them for (not much wear and tear can happen to a big hunk of cast-iron).

So, that’s how I would stay in shape by not using a gym, at most I think it would cost about $150 to set up and would consist of a heavy hunk of metal and a bar that I would hang in my doorway.  If my gym wasn’t so convenient and such a nice change of pace in the middle of my working day, I would save the $550 per year I’m currently spending to go somewhere else to lift heavy things.

Do you go to a gym?  Do you have any frugal fitness methods?

12 thoughts on “How to get in Shape Without Spending a Fortune”

  1. The only benefit I see to a gym membership are group classes – they really push you to do a great workout, as well they will show you how to do the exercises right.

    If you’re already confident enough to do workouts without a trainer or in a group session, a kettlebell, a set of P90X tapes and a pair of running shoes is all you really need.

  2. Great post. I don’t have a gym membership (the two I’ve had in my life have been a complete waste). I actually do exactly what you recommend – bodyweight and kettlebells. If any other readers are interested in getting a kettlebell, they should be sure to buy one they will get the most use out of – buying one that’s too light is a waste of money.
    Average, healthy men should be getting a 16kg (35lb) bell to start. An average woman should be getting an 8kg (18lb) kettlebell at minimum.
    I can’t stress enough the importance of learning proper form for kettlebells (or any exercise). Find a trainer in your area and get an introductory lesson or two.

  3. I belong to a gym – costs only about $20 a month for both my wife and me – and is nearby. I like the reality of belonging to a gym mainly because I am SO CHEAP that I surely want to get my money’s worth – even if it’s only 20 bucks a month.

    If it didn’t actually, measurably cost me something, I fear that I would let some exercising (weights?) slide.

    Whatever works, I say.

  4. I have a home gym that I use regularly. A big part of the workout uses the kettlebells that you mention, so they are a good purchase. Furthermore, I use my hallway mounted chin up bar for both workouts and hanging laundry as it comes out of the dryer.

    My recommendation is not in equipment, but in training style. Too many people focus on strength training and work only on lifting weights. Adding in some Plyometrics (jumping, and ball drills) and Flexibility (Stretching and Yoga) will help improve your overall fitness without adding much cost. Plyometrics can be added by finding a knee high stone or brick wall in your neighbourhood, and Yoga can be done anywhere as long as you don’t need to be pampered and placed on a non-slip mat.

  5. I have a home gym that consists of a bench press, 2 olympic bars, 350 lbs of olympic plates, rubber hex dumbbells pairs from 10-55 Lbs and a recumbent bike. The good news is I purchased all of this used for less than 500$. The even better news is that I can sell the equipment for more than that if my needs change.

    Prior to that, I had a bowflex revolution gym that I had purchased new in the box from the buy and sell section of kijiji for 2,000$ (worth about 4,000$ at the time). I proceeded to use the bowflex almost daily for 2 years and sold it a while ago for… 2,000$! Talk about low marginal cost!

  6. My wife wanted me to wear a pedometer at work today… secretly, I think she is skeptical about how physically taxing my job can be. Today, according to the little step measuring device clipped to my belt, I took 18039 steps at work today… that’s a typical days work in the road building business for me, and a an example of how I keep fit. No need for a gym membership whatsoever….

  7. I would say you’re even underestimating how much kettlebells, body weights, and varying sprint workouts can do for your body. I would add one piece of equipment which is a skipping rope. It’s a great way to warm up, cool down, get some agility work in, and keep your heart rate up. Gyms are great for isolating muscles and building a ‘beach body.’ To build functional strength there is no need for most weights and especially not machines (terrible inventions as far as workout efficiency goes).

  8. I play soccer one day a week and floor hockey one day a week. I used to play basketball, but I found I don’t really enjoy basketball that much.

    For those of us who get bored out of our tree lifting weights, sports are a great alternative. Plus, my total cost is nothing more than a pair of running shoes and a hockey stick. For me, sports are fun, which keeps me going back week after week.

  9. I love biking and swimming, but when I want to stay home, the Wii (or something similar) games will do the trick.

  10. Pick something you enjoy is pretty important.

    But for the gym….what a waste of money. If it’s the shower and locker you need downtown, that’s fine…and honestly, $20 a month on a gym, which isn’t connected to your sport is something 5 years down the line you are going to regret.

    A pullup/chin up bar is all you need to buy. If you want to do dips, use chairs.

    There are so many bodyweight exercises, that kettle bells will gather dust.

    And, if you are concerned that it will not be enough, forget kettle bells, get parallettes. Have you seen a fat, out of shape gymnast? For around $30 from material from your local hardware store, you are going to have great physical shape, great movement, and great dynamic movement.

    Good luck!

Comments are closed.