If you’re one of the millions of women who have resolved to “get in shape!” for the New Year, we’re totally behind you. (Although we hope “pay off debt” or “contribute more to retirement” are up there, too!)
But with so many butt-busting, hamstring-stretching, calorie-burning exercises out there, how do you choose the best one? Is more expensive necessarily more effective? And will you even stick with it once you're done paying for the membership and the equipment?
Often, the pricier choices—like exercise classes or hiring a personal trainer—require less willpower because there's a minimum time commitment and an instructor to goad you into first, showing up, and then, working out your hardest. Of course, if you have the self-control to keep yourself on track, you can probably make do with one of the lower-cost variations.
We talked to Amie Hoff, a fitness consultant and Certified Personal Trainer, to find out which exercise option is best for you and your budget. Check out our chart for how much each option costs in money, a recommended time commitment ... and, that intangible, what's most worth it for you.
Then, below, we give you a breakdown of what each choice would entail in terms of effort and investment.
|Activity||Cost||Time Commitment Per Day||Good For||Willpower Required|
|Running||$100 for shoes and timer watch||20 minutes+||Weight loss and cardio||Some. "Runner's high" can be addictive.|
|Gym||$10-$120 a month||45 minutes+||Weight loss, cardio, toning, flexibility||A lot. Unused memberships abound.|
|Yoga||$10-$20 a class, or $100+ per month||1.5 hours||Toning and flexibility. Weight loss is slower but possible||Some. Instructor will lead you; challenging but pleasant.|
|Pilates||$80+ for one-on-one, $30+ for group studio classes, free with gym membership||45 minutes||Toning and flexibility. Weight loss possible with cardio pilates classes||Some. Instructor will lead you; challenging but pleasant.|
|Biking||$150+ for a bike||1 hour+||Weight loss and lean muscle||Some. It's fun, and you can make it your regular transportation.|
|Team Sport||$75+ for season||1.5 hours+||Camaraderie and some weight loss, depending on level||Low. It’s fun!|
|Swimming||$2+ per session, plus cost of bathing suit||30 minutes+||Weight loss and toning||High. Especially in the winter months!|
|Walking||Free||15 minutes+||Getting started in a fitness routine||Low. Easy to get started and keep going.|
|Personal Trainer||$30-$80 per hour||1 hour+||Everything||Low. You're paying someone for motivation!|
How to Save
Amie Hoff doesn't recommend skimping on the shoes even if you're only doing a few miles a week. "Your feet really need decent support with all the pounding," she says. And it's likely you'll increase your mileage ... that's the goal, anyway. Try on a lot of different shoes at the store to find a well-fitting pair, then go online to a place like Zappos to find them at a good price.
Gyms range from bare-bones, franchised outfits for $10 a month, all the way up to $150 or more for the kind with tennis courts, pools and a smoothie bar. Of course, remember that you don't need a sauna to get a workout. Right now also happens to be a great time to find New Year's deals on membership. Other tactics: comparison shop and tell your favorite gym about a competitor's price; pay in full for a year in advance; look for deals on group-buying sites like Groupon; and sign up as a group of friends or family. And don't forget to ask for a free personal trainer session or two when you sign the contract—that's pretty standard.
If a gym isn't in the cards for you (or your nearest one is a 45-minute drive away), Hoff recommends the $140 P90X fitness and nutrition system, which provide the benefits of a tough and varied gym workout at home, or her portable $30 FitKit, which comes with workout tools and online instruction.
Yoga studios often offer great deals on group buying sites, so check there first. Shop around and take advantage of introductory offers at all your local studios, which usually include something like a free week of unlimited classes for the price of just one class. Unless you're really going to show up to yoga three or four times a week, look for a studio that offers class cards (for example, you buy ten classes at once) instead of an unlimited monthly membership. And once you get the basics down under the supervision of an instructor, you can augment your workouts with a Gaiam home DVD, or choose from the abundance of free online videos. (Here are some places you can find free exercise videos).
Saving On the Little Things
Saving on fitness can make a difference in your budget, but what other little things are making room in your wallet?
Hear from fellow LearnVesters and share your own lifestyle tips in LV Discussions.
Because pilates usually requires equipment, sessions rarely have more than a few people, which also contributes to the expense. However, pilates mat classes are also very challenging, can build great tone and are more affordable (akin to yoga class prices). See if your instructor will conduct a private session with you and a couple friends at the same time. You can carry over mat exercises at home. An at-home option? Hoff likes the STOTT PILATES DVDs.
A bike is an expensive investment, so until you know you'll stick with cycling, try borrowing a friend's for your workouts. When you're ready to purchase one of your own, check out used bikes on Craigslist, making sure to give the bike a thorough test ride before buying. And get a new helmet—we want you to be safe!
We wouldn't recommend a weekly team game as your only workout, but it's a great way to make friends and get in some light exercise. Signing up as a team will save you money, so start recruiting friends and friends-of-friends, or look for leagues in your city that offer different sports. Though pick-up games are free, they're much less reliable, so join a community league if you're serious about wanting to play. To find a league, try Sportsvite or Zogsports.
Also, if this is for exercise, watch out for post-game calories at the bar, which are de rigeuer for most leagues.
Some nicer gyms include pools in the package, but with a little bit of sleuthing, you can find a public or YMCA pool that will charge you just a few bucks to enter. Grab a basic athletic swimsuit and goggles, and you're good to go.
This may seem like the Cadillac of options, and sometimes it is. But if you do your research, you might be able to find a personal trainer for as low as $30, depending on your location. Lower the price even further by signing up for a group session or bringing your friends along. And, of course, there are hundreds of good-quality fitness DVDs out there by personal trainers—you can even stream workouts on Netflix Instant Play, if you already subscribe. You just won't get the personalized workout advice (and the kick in the butt) you would from a trainer.
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