This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson.

Recently, my sister and I were discussing our love/hate relationships with exercise when she told me something that struck me as funny. Apparently, she has trouble convincing herself to jog as long as she should, so she devised a plan.

“When I know I’m not very motivated, I’ll have my husband get in the car and drop me off a few miles from home,” she said with a snicker.

Once dropped off, she had no choice but to push through whatever issues she was trying to overcome that day, she explained.

What’s so hard about working out?

I thought her plan was both hilarious and genius at the same time. And sadly, I can relate to her situation. The truth is, I also have trouble staying on track when it comes to working out, and sometimes I have to trick myself. For example, I’ve push-mowed my own grass for a while now, but not to save money. In my eyes, push-mowing amounts to around 45 minutes of cardio and an upper-arm workout to boot. And when I don’t hire that work out, I have to do it.

But mowing the grass is just once per week. When it comes to traditional workout routines, I have a whole host of excuses, including these:

“I don’t want to pay for a gym membership.”

“I don’t have time.”

“I don’t want to sacrifice free time with my husband.”

I’ve said all of these things, and others, for years. But the truth is, none of them are 100 percent accurate all of the time. When you really want something, you make time for it. And there have been times when I have made time to work out and been truly happy with the results. Life may be busy, but it really is all about priorities.

Getting fit without the gym

Of course, it is easy to get in the habit of believing that you need a gym membership to get into better shape. But with gym memberships ranging from $50 to $200 a month, it’s also easy to understand why many people shy away from the new expense. Fortunately, there are a wide range of ways to get fit without the gym and, in some cases, without any equipment at all. After spending some time researching all of the options, here is what I came up with:

  • Exercise in the great outdoors –– Spending time outdoors may provide much more than an opportunity to exercise; it can also put you back in touch with nature. Meanwhile, it is almost the perfect place to crank up some tunes and jog, walk, run, or bike. If you live near hiking trails, you can also push the limits with long or short hikes that test your stamina and boost your heart rate. And the best part is, exercising outdoors is free.
  • Buy some cheap, used equipment for home — Of course, there are times when outdoor exercise may be next to impossible, or at least more hassle than you want to experience. If you have room in your home, you could always consider buying a treadmill, elliptical, or weight bench new or used off of a site like Craigslist. If you have a room to spare and don’t mind sacrificing the space, set up a small, in-home gym with equipment you know you will use regularly — and not just for hanging ironed shirts.
  • Stream your routine — The Internet offers plenty of opportunities for those who want to stream exercise videos into their own home. For example, if you subscribe to Netflix, you have instant access to all kinds of free exercise routines that will play directly on your TV. Meanwhile, big name exercise gurus like Tracy Anderson have begun offering live streaming workouts and online tutorials that you can access from the comfort of your own home. You can also scope out YouTube for workout routines, although you should do so at your own risk since anything you find there is less likely to come from a professional.
  • Get back into video games — Game consoles like the Xbox Kinect and the Nintendo Wii were created to get kids moving as they play new games and explore. But they aren’t only for kids; these new technologies have also been geared to interest adults and offer many exercise games in addition to racing games and shoot-em-ups. With the Wii, for example, you can do anything from yoga to dancing to Zumba, and all with games and routines you can easily buy in-store or online. My daughter has the Wii game Just Dance, and it is one heck of a workout — not to mention the fact that it is really fun!
  • Break out the old exercise videos — I don’t know about you, but I have a ton of old exercise videos stashed away. Sadly, some of them are even on VHS, including some really funny Tae Bo and Sweatin’ to the Oldies tapes. In addition to whatever you have at home, you might also be able to check out free workout videos at your local library. Consider trading around with your friends. Most people have at least a few videos they have purchased over the years, and they might be willing to trade with you periodically as a way to keep things fresh and new.
  • Stop outsourcing — Housecleaning, yard work, and home repairs are all chores that can burn some serious calories if you do them yourself instead of outsourcing them. Bonus: You could also save money by in-sourcing those tasks instead of paying someone else. Try mowing your own yard (not with a riding mower), dusting, sweeping, and mopping your own home, or even cleaning out the garage or washing windows if you want to feel the burn. Even better, try wearing ankle weights or wrist weights while you clean!

Gym memberships can be a huge and expensive commitment, and it just doesn’t make sense for most of us. But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep our bodies moving in other ways and still accomplish the same thing without the monthly expense.

For me, that usually means deep-cleaning my house a little more often, push-mowing my lawn, and maybe having my husband abandon me in a random parking lot in the not too distant future. Hey, I’ll do whatever it takes to stay in decent shape and take care of the body that needs to carry me through several more decades. Because, as they say, an investment in our health is the best investment that any of us can make.

How do you save money on fitness? Do you work out at home or do you splurge for a gym membership?

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