A Frugal Guide: Keeping Fit Without A Gym Membership

Photo Credit: Freeimages.com/Aaron Neifer

We all know that being physically active throughout our lives is important for our overall health and longevity but sometimes it’s difficult to fit a workout into our already busy lives. It can also be tough to stay motivated; some of us are lazy girls/guys, some of us don’t know where to start and some of us start out a year with a great vigor for exercise only to have our momentum peter out mid-year. Then there’s the fact that while gyms are great; they offer classes to meet most people’s taste, weights and cardio machines for the trail blazers and personal training for the clueless newbie; they are also expensive.

I have belonged to a gym in the past, and for many years I attended the classes either in the evenings or on my lunch hour, but I always ended up with the problem of lack of motivation and after awhile I would lose interest and stop going for awhile. Usually I would regain my groove and get back at it (usually thanks to my bestie who is a religious gym goer) but I always felt pretty guilty paying for something that I wasn’t using to my full advantage.

This post is not intended to suggest that gyms or fitness classes are bad, or a waste of money because they are totally not. However, if you happen to be on a budget or are just too darn cheap please read on for some ideas on how to workout for free or at a very low cost.


I know this is not everyone’s cup of tea (you have bad knees, ankles, etc.) and it may seem like an obvious one but I want to mention it because it has always been one of the sports that I was coordinated enough to be good at. This is a completely free exercise as long as you have all the necessary equipment; a good pair of running shoes (shoes should be replaced every 300-500 miles according to Runner’s World, or once you start to experience any discomfort in your joints) and some comfortable clothing. Obviously you see runners who are all decked out with the latest dry-fit clothing and time-tracking watches but this is mostly for show and possibly comfort. Running can really be done any time of the year; I used to be very picky about what weather I would run in and typically I preferred to run in Spring and Fall but not Summer and winter; this has changed a bit because my bestie got me out running a few evenings this winter when it wasn’t crazy cold or snowing and I actually quite liked it, I even have taken the girls out running in the Chariot stroller a few times. So I guess now I’m a winter running convert but if you live somewhere cold and you happen to have a treadmill you can always go that route.


I’ll admit I am not a big fan of ice skating but if you live somewhere that has a lake or canal (like in Ottawa) that freezes over for the winter and you own a pair of skates it’s definitely a great workout. I think that the key to enjoying ice skating is having a warm, supportive, comfortable pair of skates. Another option is inline skating which I enjoy doing once the weather get nice; there is a long stretch of pathway that runs along the Ottawa river and is an awesome place to bike or inline skate during the non-snowy months.


This is another obvious one but one that I have not really done a lot of over the last few years (riding a bike while pregnant isn’t the safest I guess) but now that the girls are bigger and I’m not pregnant I plan to bike with the girls by attaching my Chariot to the back of my bike. In the event that you don’t have a bike there are many ways to get a bike second hand or new on sale that won’t break the bank.


I first was introduced to yoga and pilates about 12 years ago and I pretty much had a love affair with it ever since. I started out doing videos at home and then eventually went to classes at my gym and local yoga studio. I haven’t been doing this as much in the last year because I honestly have not had the time but although I prefer to go to a class and be led by an instructor it is totally possible to do at home. There are free drop in yoga classes at your local Lululemon which will give you a nice workout your wallet will love and your soul will appreciate. If you want to get your namaste on at su casa then you could look on You Tube for free yoga/pilates videos and follow along with those (although I found that most were quite short). Another alternative is to do a free trial of one of the many online yoga sites such as Yoga Anytime, most will let you try free for 14 days and then if you want to subscribe you can decide if it fits within your budget.

Sports Team:

This is something that might not be super cheap depending on the sport (hockey anyone?) simply because certain sports teams have registration fees and then there’s equiptment but check if your workplace organizes any team sports; I played softball with my work team and all I had to buy was a glove and some cleats (the glove was really the only necessary item). There’s also the option to be a spare for a friends team and then you only play when they are short players, thus saving yourself a ton of money! There’s also a whole bunch of city programs that offer low-cost sports teams and fitness classes so be sure to check out your local recreation guide to see if there’s anything that would get you out of the house and moving.


Everyone knows at least one person who owns a pool. Find that person and make them your new best friend for the summer. Or you can check out your local beach and do some laps in there. Either way, swimming is pretty inexpensive and it’s a great workout.


This is a random one but I thought, why not? If you can find a long flight of stairs, preferably outdoors, you can come up with a great stair workout. Better yet get some friends to endure the torture alongside you, I promise your butt will look fabulous.

That’s it ladies and gents! Hope that this was helpful, I know that none of these things are new inventions but they are tried and true ways to get your sweat on without spending a ton of dough and if you’re really keen you could put away that $40 plus a month that you would have spent on a membership in a savings account and treat yourself to something nice at the end of the year or invest it for your future, you know whatever floats your boat!




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