Resolutions

Eight tips to stay fit within a budget

The Associated PressDecember 30, 2012 

— The start of a new year inspires many of us to commit to get fit and live healthier.

Such an undertaking requires steeling one’s resolve to eat right and exercise. What isn’t required is emptying out one’s wallet just to break a sweat and shed a few pounds.

It doesn’t cost a dime to go for a run in your neighborhood or at a nearby park. Or to do push-ups, abdominal crunches and other exercises that require only your own body weight as resistance. Set your DVR and do a Zumba or yoga routine in the comfort of your own living room.

But if you feel you need to enlist a personal trainer, turn the spare room into a home gym or join a fitness club, you don’t have to spend a bundle. Here are eight tips on how to tackle your New Year’s fitness resolutions without straining your finances:

1. TEST YOUR COMMITMENT

Before getting locked into a gym contract or buying expensive equipment, spend a few weeks working up a sweat running or doing other exercises that don’t require equipment. If you can stick to a regular schedule for a month or two, it’s more likely that you will continue once you join a gym – and your investment won’t go to waste.

2. USE FREE TRIALS AND AVOID THE RUSH

At the start of a new year, gyms are eager to sign up legions of new members and will let prospective customers try out their facilities free of charge for a day, sometimes even a week. If you have several gyms in your area, take advantage of their free trial periods before making a year-long commitment.

3. FLEX YOUR NEGOTIATING SKILLS

You’ve finished your free trials and you’ve chosen your gym. Now dust off your haggling skills. Find rival gyms’ ads or offer terms and ask the fitness club of your choice to match the deal. Or offer to sign up for a month-to-month contract and upgrade to a longer-term deal, in exchange for a discount. If you can wait until the weight-loss resolution wave wanes, say in March, you could have more negotiating leverage because gyms aren’t getting as many new members.

4. THINK THROUGH CONTRACT TERMS

To reap the biggest savings on a gym contract, opt for a full-year term and pay for it upfront. Members who opt for the monthly contract can expect to pay more over 12 months for the ability to walk away at the end of each month. Annual contracts can be fairly difficult to get out of, so avoid signing on until you’re sure about the gym and your commitment to getting fit. And when you do go, go often so you get what you’re paying for.

5. TRY THE BUDDY SYSTEM

It can be tough to get going on your own. Personal trainers can help motivate and instruct clients how to get the most out of their workouts. They can also end up costing quite a bit after several sessions. One way to cut the cost is to find a trainer who will take on two people at once for less than the combined cost of two individual lessons. This way, you and your fitness buddy can split the cost. Another option is to find a trainer that will train you for a half-hour, rather than a full hour.

6. BUY MORE BEANS

A big part of fitness is eating healthy. Unfortunately, fast-food items and cheap packaged foods are often less expensive than loading up on fruits, vegetables and lean cuts of meats, fish and poultry. Try substituting some of the red meat you buy with whole grains and beans and legumes, which are less expensive proteins.

7. LOOK FOR EMPLOYER OR HEALTH PLAN DISCOUNTS

Your health insurance company or employer may offer a discount to certain gyms or offer nutrition assistance free of charge.

8. TAKE THE NO-GYM APPROACH

The best way to save money on exercise? Don’t spend much, if any at all. Grab a friend and go for a hike. Walk or bike to work instead of drive. Or buy a set of $10 dumbbells, a mat and an exercise DVD.

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