It’s Time to Ditch the Gym
We all like to feel fit, strong and healthy, but, let’s face it: gym memberships are pretty darn expensive.
Never fear! The gym is not the only way to get fit. It’s time to embrace a more active lifestyle that will make you happier, get you outdoors and save a few bucks for your wallet. Oh, and while the gym can be kind of a sweaty slog, remember: you are allowed to actually have fun while you’re indulging in physical activity. Yes, it is work. But there’s no reason it cannot be enjoyable work. Here are some fantastic, fun ways to be physically active that don’t involve a boring corporate gym membership:
In beautiful weather:
- Go for a jog. It’s way better than slogging along on a treadmill or elliptical machine. You’re outside, feeling the breeze, hearing the twittering birds—oh yeah, and it’s free! Try a school track, your local streets or even simple dirt trails to start.
- Take a bike ride. Not into jogging? I hear you. Some of us find peace in the run, but some of us would rather get a tooth pulled. Biking is a great solution. It focuses on different muscles groups than running, with the added benefit of allowing you to move significantly faster, thanks to the glory that is the wheel. One of the great joys of biking is the feeling of quickly propelling oneself, almost soaring, down roads or trails. You can easily incorporate it into your day by biking to your destinations rather than driving. Whether you choose to bike up mountains, down country roads or dart through city streets, there’s no denying that biking is good for your body, your wallet and the planet.
- Tennis it up. If you have a little time on the weekend, join a tennis clinic or plan a hitting session with a good friend. The quick movement help to strengthen stabilization muscles in your legs, while your coordination and focus get a little practice. It’s a whole body experience, unlike watching television while you’re on the stair master. There are many public courts that are completely free, so do your research to find out what exists in your area.
- Try SUPing. Rent a stand-up paddleboard, take it out to your local lake or lazy river (with a knowledgeable companion on your first time) and paddle! SUPing makes a great early morning practice that engages your core and relaxes you for the day (if you live near a body of water). Otherwise, kayaking and canoeing are great options for enjoying nature while fitting in physical activity. And boating doesn’t have to be an all-day affair. Plan well and the whole excursion shouldn’t run you more than an hour or two. If you’re not into boats, simply going for a swim in a lake or a local pool a few times a week is terrific exercise that is easy on your joints.
- Go sunrise hiking. Big or small, a hike is very much a small rebirth. Starting your day with a sunrise hike can be a glorious experience. Make it into a mind-body ritual and reap the cardiovascular and meditative benefits—along with seriously fit calf muscles. Even if you just a walk around the block, seeing the world when it’s so quiet and still can bring a lot of calmness and perspective to your day in a way a bustling gym simply cannot.
In harsh weather:
- Grab a jumprope. No need to brave the cold to get to the gym. Set up your own routine at home. Yeah, most of us don’t have the disposable income or space to buy all those fancy machines, but you probably can afford a jumprope. Alternating between jumping rope, squats, planks, push-ups and ab work in high intensity intervals can give you a terrific workout in only 10 to 15 minutes. That’s the amount of time it takes most people to walk or drive to their local gym!
- Indoor rock climbing. If you are looking for a solid form of anaerobic exercise and have an indoor rock gym nearby, prepare to have your world rocked. Yes, this is a gym, but not in the traditional sense. Scaling the climbing wall provides not only an intense full-body workout, but it encourages you to use your mind to plan the best moves and routes, making it an excellent practice in problem solving. And, after the first few sessions when your hands are getting used to gripping things, it’s incredibly addictive and fun for all genders and ages! Other ideas to try are Crossfit classes, martial arts classes and Pilates.
- Take to the mat. Winter, spring, summer or fall, yoga will be there. It is pretty easy to find local classes to sign up for and even easier to find free classes on YouTube. On those stormy winter days when you don’t want to trek to the yoga studio, snuggle up with some tea, unravel your mat and explore your practice. Not only does yoga keep your body fit and supple, but it keeps your mind more balanced, too.
- Dance. Whether you hit up a local ballet class, a Zumba class or you just jam in your bathroom, taking 45 to 90 minutes to dance your heart out is a solid form of aerobic exercise. It’s also a near-instant mood-booster, so it’s great for those struggling with anxiety or depression to incorporate some free dance sessions into their week.
There is no need to feel like you need a gym membership. Fitness can be fun and free. Ditch the sterile, air-conditioned environment of your local gym. While the gym can be useful on occasion, try to make the bulk of your workouts fun, creative and full of personality. Before you know it, you’ll be having a blast!