By Josie Rubio
For the past few weeks, we’ve been seeing click-bait headlines like this: “Staying in shape is becoming a luxury that only the richest people can afford.” Before we all sink deeper into the couch and give up, we have some good news: That’s not true. At all.
The attention-grabbing headlines are based on an original in-depth Racked piece called “Why Fitness Classes Are Making You Go Broke,” a story that explores how you can easily spend a lot of money on workouts. Among the examples: a New York City resident who realized she was spending $550 per month on boutique fitness classes, someone who spends $12,000 on exercise per year and a woman who drops $100 during one day of cycling.
So yes, you could spend thousands of dollars per year on fitness—but if you’re anything like us and don’t have surplus thousands, you would probably notice pretty quickly when you couldn’t buy groceries or pay the rent. Fitness can be a luxury item and a status symbol, but you can work out on the cheap, and you don’t need to do it in $400 yoga pants.
Below are some of our tips for getting your heart racing from exercise—and not sticker shock.
Try out the coupons and deals. Many gyms and fitness studios offer deals for first-time students. It’s a win-win, because they want your potential business and you get to try out a place to see if it’s right for you. If you’re thinking of trying a Groupon, Living Social or Amazon Local deal, go for it—and check out our guide to using them in a smart way.
Right now, we’re hooked on ClassPass: For $79–$99 per month (depending on your location), you get access to all participating local studios, including yoga, barre, Pilates, boxing, cardio—even some gyms. The only catch? You are limited to three classes per studio per month, and you have to cancel scheduled classes 12 hours in advance. ClassPass is available in 28 U.S. cities, plus Toronto, Vancouver and London—and you can switch your location if you're traveling.
Work out at home. Who says you have to hit the gym to get fit? Working out with a trainer or in a group setting has plenty of benefits, whether you’re just starting out or are leveling up to more challenging workouts where you may need guidance to avoid injury. But if you proceed with caution, working out at home can be a thrifty way to get fit. (Especially if you suffer from gymtimidation.)
Don’t know where to start? Try some of the free ih8exercise guides and videos to basic moves, from planks to push-ups. And check out the ih8exercise virtual library of free e-books to help tone and sculpt your butt, thighs, stomach, arms and back.
For free full-length classes, try Fitness Blender, a site launched in 2010 by two personal trainers who believe fitness should be accessible to anyone. The impressive online library features full-length workouts for a wide range of fitness levels, and some—like the 25-minute cardio kickboxing workout—don’t require any equipment. There are workouts for core and back health, abs, high-intensity interval training and even special routines for busy people. A simple menu on the side lets you sort by time, difficulty, body focus and equipment needed. Fitness Blender is also a great way to try different workouts to see if they’re right for you.
Plenty of streaming fitness services also offer a variety of workouts for monthly fees. Acacia TV gives subscribers access to a variety of workouts and routines from top trainers, like Shiva Rea, Kathy Smith, Kristin McGee and Gerren Liles—plus the Exhale series of Core Fusion workouts—for $6.99 per month with a 10-day free trial.
It’s also possible to try boutique fitness classes online. For example, barre3 offers a subscription service with a variety of workouts (barre3's signature blend of Pilates, yoga and barre) ranging from 10 to 60 minutes for $15 per month; six-month and yearly memberships also are available. Founder Sadie Lincoln also offers extras, such as seasonal recipes, and special incentives, like June’s “anywhere challenge.”
There are also plenty of great fitness DVDs out there for a wide range of fitness levels. Some of our favorites include Jennifer Galardi’s “Dance Off the Inches: Hip Hop Jam,” Ashley Turner’s “Element 5 Day Yoga,” Lisa Kinder’s “10-Minute Solution: High Intensity Interval Training,” Mia Togo’s “Element Daily Yoga” and Lisa Wheeler’s “Weight Watchers: 7-Day Tone & Burn.”
While none of these DVDs will break the bank, if you want to be extra-frugal, try picking up some workout DVDs at the thrift store and at tag/garage sales.
Shop thrifty. Speaking of thrift shops and tag sales, they can be great places to find workout equipment. Check out our guide to what to pick up at the thrift store—as well as what not to buy used.
Buying new? Read ih8exercise’s 99-cent-store guide to working out. And if $80 is too much to spend on yoga pants, then read about our favorite place to buy affordable exercise clothes and accessories.
Make smart workout investments. Once you’ve established a workout routine, you may notice that small costs—like bottles of water or equipment rentals—are adding up. Find ways to save money by investing in items that can save you money in the long run.
A water bottle is a solid investment—and the ih8exercise water bottle is only $7. For a leak-proof water bottle, try the Specialized Purist MoFlo ($11). We also love insulated water bottles like those from Hydro Flask that keep water cool even during outdoor summer workouts and in heated yoga classes.
If you’re renting things like yoga mats, yoga towels or cycling shoes on a regular basis, consider buying your own. We use a Manduka eKO Lite mat when we’re on the go, and there are even lighter mats available.
Do you have money-saving fitness tips? Comment and share them with us!
Photo: ra2 Studio/Dollar Photo Club