You don’t need a gym to get in shape or stay that way, and there are a couple of advantages to going gym-free. First, you save the cost of your membership and any special training or classes you pay for, plus any associated costs like buying nice exercise clothes or tending to buy convenience foods and beverages from your gym when you could eat or drink something cheaper at home. Second, you save money, time and stress by not having to travel anywhere to get your workout . Third, if you’re at all shy of being watched while you exercise, doing it in the privacy of your own home lets you be totally uninhibited, which results in a better workout.
With the economy down for the count, more and more people are looking for ways to get rid of monthly subscription costs without downgrading their lifestyles too much. This is certainly one way to do it.
Equipment: to buy, or not to buy?
You don’t need expensive gym machines that need a room unto themselves to keep you in shape. There are plenty of very affordable and small substitutes that will burn calories just as well. Steppers range from about $20-100, and the $15 one I picked up on Amazon a few years ago has held up wonderfully to near daily use. Steppers are also apartment friendly, because you won’t make any thudding noises that disturb your neighbors. Mine leans against a bookcase when I’m not using it. Some of them are designed to hide away under a bed or couch.
But you don’t even need to buy equipment at all if you have a place to walk or jog safely. Outdoors is great when weather (and neighborhood safety) permits. Malls, parks, school tracks and other public options are also available.
Another equipment free option is to crank up some music and dance your heart out at home. Dancing can burn off a surprising amount of calories, and you don’t need to do it well – just vigorously. It’s also fun, so if you’re the type who gets bored with the repetitive movements of gym machines anyway, dancing might even improve your exercise habits. And because you’re not in public, you don’t care who sees if you trip over your face.
And if you’re worried about losing all those gadgets from the gym machines that tell you how fast you’re going and whether your heart’s in the zone, check out the LifeHacker guide to making playlists based on Beats Per Minute to keep you going strong and steady.
Another advantage to home workouts is that you don’t feel the need to cram in everything in every session, and that gives you some flexible scheduling options. Most gym users go to the gym about three times a week, and do all their cardio and strength training at once. If you know you don’t have time for the full workout tonight, you’re likely to skip it instead of going to the gym, changing clothes, doing what you can, showering and changing back into your clothes and going on to whatever plans you’ve got scheduled.
At home, you could spread it out a little: do a half-hour of cardio 5-6 times a week instead of doing forty-five minutes of it three times a week, plus your strength training for one muscle group one day, another muscle group on another day. Then if you miss a session, it won’t decrease the overall amount of exercise you’re getting as much as missing a longer session at the gym would have.
What about yoga classes?
If you’ve been taking yoga classes, congratulations – you should be ready to do what yoga was designed for: creating your own program. At home, you can customize your yoga workout to stretch the parts of you that need it more than others, to relax more fully, to do whatever it is you need. DVDs can help, too. Check your local library and Netflix before spending money on them – that way you know what you’re getting and how it works for you.
Lifting weights is good for everybody. Again, you don’t actually need to buy any equipment. Human beings have been shaping their bodies without it for years. You just need to use exercises that use your own body weight to work out your muscles: push-ups, crunches, leg lifts, etc. But dumbbells are very affordable, and you can even buy them online with free shipping, and at the appropriate weight they will provide enough resistance for anyone who’s just trying to keep in shape. If you’re lifting to gain weight, you may need a set of barbells, but these will also pay for themselves over time compared to maintaining a gym membership and all those other costs.
A note on free weights versus machine weights: a ten pound free weight will seem a lot heavier to you than the ten pound setting on a weight machine. Start out with lower weights for your dumbbells than what you were used to with a weight machine. Believe it or not, if you do your lifting slowly, with great attention to feeling the challenge in your muscles, you can get excellent results with 2-10 pound weights. Always err on the side of buying dumbbells that are too light rather than too heavy. You can still get a great workout with the light ones, but you can hurt yourself with ones that are too heavy.
Getting a workout at home is actually very easy and inexpensive. If you have the advantage of knowing your body already and having established a routine at a gym, it’s even simpler.