Frugality in Practice: Home-Based Physical Fitness

Lately, I’ve been making rumblings about getting in shape again. I want to get fit slowly. The trick is figuring out how to do it. It took a lot of reading and a lot of trial and error to take control of my finances, but I’ve finally achieved a healthy attitude toward money. Now I hope to do the same with physical fitness. But where to start?

One approach would be to just throw money at the problem. I’ve been looking at fitness clubs, for example; they offer great exercise equipment and motivational classes all in one facility. But they cost more than a frugal fellow like me wants to pay. (Yes, I’ve looked into the YMCA and local community centers — there’s nothing nearby.)

I’ve also been fighting the urge to purchase a new bicycle. The Redline 925 makes me drool, but do I really want to spend $800 on bike? What’s wrong with the bike I already own?

I was heading for a major expenditure if I didn’t formulate a plan, so I sat down and made a list of the free or low-cost fitness alternatives at my disposal. I was surprised to discover how much exercise equipment I already own:

  • We purchased a NordicTrack ski machine over ten years ago. It has received very little use during its lifetime.
  • I have a bare-bones weight set that I’m storing for a friend.
  • Last fall, some neighbors down the street were giving away exercise equipment they no longer used. They gave me a stationary cycle and a “health-rider”, both of which I dragged up the hill to our house. They’ve sat unused in storage ever since.
  • While working with my wellness coach last spring, I was fitted for (and purchased) a good pair of running shoes.
  • I own two bicycles. The first is a 1997 Bianchi Volpe touring bike that I purchased ten years ago. I rode it for a couple thousand miles during 1998-1999, but since then it’s been neglected. I’ve also fixed up an old mountain bike that my cousin gave me to use as a “commuter” of sorts. I use it to run errands.
  • We have a variety of sports equipment: several soccer balls, baseball gloves, golf clubs, racquetball stuff, a frisbee, and a jump-rope.
  • We own Dance Dance Revolution for the Wii.
  • I have a good pair of hiking boots and miles of great trails all around.

When I look at the list of fitness equipment I already have, it seems ludicrous to pay money to join a gym. I already have a gym. Sure, I don’t have a treadmill or an elliptical machine or a fancy weight set, but I have plenty to get me started. I’ve already paid for this equipment — I might as well get some use from it!

It also seems crazy to purchase a new bike. I have two bikes! What would I do with a third that I cannot do already? Instead, I pulled my touring bike out of storage. It was in sad shape, so I paid the local bike shop a couple hundred dollars to give it an overhaul. Spending this money hurt, but if it’s enough to get me back on the road to physical fitness, it’s well worth the cost. Good health pays dividends in the long run.

And you know what? It’s fantastic to be back on the road. Over the past week, I’ve put in about 40 miles. That’s not a lot, but it’s a start. It’s like saving your first $40 in an emergency fund. You save a little at a time, and eventually you have $2,000 set aside. By the end of the summer, I hope to have biked 2,000 miles. (Or more!)

I look like the biggest dork in the world. But I’m on my bike!

For more on this subject:

Oh yeah — I’ve signed up at We Endure, a social training log that lets you track your progress in a variety of endurance sports (such as cycling, running, and swimming). Here’s my profile. I’ve also created a Get Fit Slowly group that you’re welcome to join (even if you don’t read Get Fit Slowly). The more the merrier!

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There are 88 comments to "Frugality in Practice: Home-Based Physical Fitness".

  1. Amber says 21 February 2008 at 05:15

    We’re terribly lucky that our city has a fitness center- only about five minutes from my house. Right now I’m spending $15 a month on it, but I think having someone to help me choose my exercise and nutrition plan, as well as someone to be accountable to (she does check-ins) is going to be invaluable in this journey to getting healthy.

    Good job getting going on your own!

  2. Stephen Popick says 21 February 2008 at 05:33

    We came to the same conclusion. Picot has her Nordic track ski machine and I have a weight bench. We have DDR for the PS2 but are looking much more forward to Wii Fitness.

    Is DDR Wii good? We’ve read some bad reviews?

  3. notgonnadoit says 21 February 2008 at 05:33

    Congrats for the goal!

    I did just that and have lost a touch over 100 lbs (300 to 200 for a 5’10” guy). Walking is great, and the various cardio ideas you mentioned above.

    I strongly suggust that you use your weights! Try 2 or 3 times a week.

    Use light weights. Go read T-nation or for general ideas. Check your yard sales for dumbells (great for solo workouts, easier to use than a bar in many ways).

    Building muscle though lifting weights will increase your fitness by leaps and bounds as you will add muscle mass.

    Regardless, congrats on getting active!

  4. Sean says 21 February 2008 at 05:41

    You’re way more patient and intelligent than I. My now ex-Wife and I had $70,000 in debt (cars, cards, student loans etc) We got on Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and had paid off about 40k of it. And then I also got the fitness bug and ended up buying a $1,600 triathlon bike. At the time all we had was my wife’s old MTB and I wanted a roadie. My inner 4 year old, as Dave would say, just had to have it. Thankfully though I do manage to put 4-5000 miles a year on it so it does get good use. Though it has been sitting for almost two months.

    PS: In case you’re wondering if we did manage to get rid of the debt we did. And don’t sweat looking like a big dork its impossible to look cool in cycling gear.

  5. Rob says 21 February 2008 at 05:43

    You’re exactly correct – you don’t need a fancy weight set or a treadmill at home. You’ve got all you need for cardio training with your bike and your running shoes! On top of that, the basic weight set you mentioned coupled with some body-weight exercises (pushup, squat, lunge, pullup, turkish get-up) will put you in shape without requiring any extra expense for buying heavy pieces of metal!

  6. Howie says 21 February 2008 at 05:52

    A home gym can be great. I belonged to a gym for the most part of my life since I was 17. Now I’m 26. I learned about this great piece of equipment called a “kettlebell” while I was recovering from knee surgery due to a rugby injury. I bought one while I was recovering and haven’t looked back since. It works everything; strength, endurance, cardio. You can find them at My 16kg (35lb) one was only about $80. The upfront amount might turn some off but it’s actually a small investment because you have it forever and you can always find something to do with them, even the smaller weights.

    P.S. I also mountain bike for fun.

  7. Jarick says 21 February 2008 at 05:54

    Since my goal was more long-term committment to staying in shape, I started playing a competitive sport that keeps me active. I have no motivation otherwise. But you’re right, when I do get the urge to go to a gym, I have enough stuff in my house to keep me occupied. Just need the motivation…

  8. Alex McP says 21 February 2008 at 06:00

    I went through a similar thought process regarding my fitness. I had just graduated from college as a varsity athlete (crew and biking) and felt strongly that joining a gym was a waste of time and money. I had a bike, yoga podcasts, running shoes, and some free weights… Couldn’t I just do it on my own? Two things factored in to my decision to join a gym: they offered personal motivation which I couldn’t muster on my own (~1.3 workouts done a week by myself vs. included personalized workouts) and I found one that offered things I couldn’t do on my own: I joined a boxing gym. It’s not for everyone, but the joy of learning a new skill that I really wouldn’t be able to pick up on my own makes it more than a place to get fit: it’s a whole new hobby that’s worth the $30 a month to me. An exercise and fitness program requires a personality fit though, so kudos to your new dedication!

  9. J.D. says 21 February 2008 at 06:01


    We love DDR Wii. I’ve seen bad reviews, too, and just don’t understand. It’s a great game. But I’ve never played DDR in any other incarnation, so maybe there’s something I’m missing. We have great fun. The menu system sucks, though. It’s terrible. And the game doesn’t retain settings when you turn it off, which seems odd. But we love it.

  10. Lauren Muney, wellness + facilitation coach says 21 February 2008 at 06:07

    Yay! Congrats for still feeling excited!

    One last detail: the most productive “equipment” for getting fit is the desire to BE fit. All other ‘tools’ are simply extra. You can lose weight by simply walking. However, you will lose weight (and get muscle – which is needed for health AND maintaining higher metabolism) by doing MANY activities.

    If you like an activity, you will do it [more]. If you hate it, you won’t. I always coach towards what the clients enjoys FIRST: that’s why we got you the running shoes – your feet hurt even walking in your old shoes, and your goal was to try a marathon.

    Remember we talked about your biking in bad weather — just by getting an indoor trainer (a stand for your bike)…? That’s a GREAT solution which you can do at ANY time of day, ANY day of the week – even when it’s too cold or rainy (or early or late) to ride on the road. Imagine getting 30-60 minute ride on your bike at 5am while waiting for Kris to get out of the shower!… and they are probably on sale this time of year. OR on sale on Ebay. I recommend CycleOps or KurtKinetic – the cost is ~$200, although I got mine for $125. Watch movies while doing an interval workout!

    All in all, it’s simple to find things YOU like and just make a “plan of action” around them. It’s quite easy to find excuses – but it’s just as easy to create SOLUTIONS based on your ENJOYMENT!!

  11. claymeadow says 21 February 2008 at 06:08

    yes, you do look like a dork… πŸ™‚ anyways, if you want a bike, buy used. the craigslist bike section has a ton of bikes, a lot barely used, in their sports section where I am located, 12345, and I am probably about as rural as you. as for equipment, for now, buy a pair of new balance running sneakers and hit the road. in the future look into a treadmill or elliptical for home but consider that the space it takes up costs money too. my preference is to only live at home, no work and no exercise. go to job site and go to gym/fitness center.

  12. HollyP says 21 February 2008 at 06:12

    You look so happy in your photo!

    My husband has struggled with weight and exercise for years. He had a Nordic Trak collecting dust in the basement, until we were given a second-hand tv. He set up the tv near the Nordic Trak, asked for a pair of wireless headphones for Father’s Day last year, and now works out while he watches tv for an hour every day guilt-free. The tv and headphones were a minor investment, but they really paid off. He’s lost 6 inches off his waist.

    I have a personal trainer who, until her hearing declined, also served as burglar alarm, doorbell, and floor cleaner. Dogs are wonderful.

  13. LK says 21 February 2008 at 06:17

    We talk off and on about getting DDR; we need *something* to motivate us! I used to kickbox regularly, so I bought a floor-stand bag for home use. I love it, I love kickboxing, but it’s sooo easy to do something else at home instead of change into workout clothes and kickbox for 30-40 minutes in my living room! We have a walking trail near us, but sooo hard to get up in the morning and walk! LOL Plus I have an injured back which makes running/jumping/etc fairly impossible for me to do; even walking 3-4 days in a row will put me down for a day afterwards. Good job on making use of the equipment you have! I miss going to the gym but it would be almost $200 up front and $60/mo for both my husband and I to use it. eek!

  14. Chris says 21 February 2008 at 06:22

    Totally free exercise:

    Walking: At the mall, parks, down the road, etc!

    Free workout videos from the library.

    Playing with your kids at the park.

    Shoveling snow. (It’s 4 degrees here today)

    Crunches, push-ups…free

    Mowing the lawn…

  15. Josh says 21 February 2008 at 06:22

    I’ll second (or is it third now) weight training to boost fitness and weight loss. A pound of muscle will make you burn 30-40 calories more a day. Add a few pounds of muscle and you’re talking a couple pounds a month burned and you didn’t have to do anything.
    I read a nice article about weight loss yesterday that had a sample barbell/dumbell no-bench workout, which sounds like what you have. Search “sample basic barbell” here:
    Ignore the freak pictures on that page, I’m pretty sure only 1% of the population has the genetics and drive to get that thin!
    This site also has a link to body fat estimating tool that is based on height/waist/neck measurements, it was spot on for my wife and I.

  16. April Dykman says 21 February 2008 at 06:23

    I went the home-workout route a little over a year ago, and today I’m in the best shape of my life (even better than when I was in athletics in high school). After college, I wanted to lose about 20 pounds. I kept thinking I needed a gym or a personal trainer, but I wasn’t very excited about either, so I worked out at home a few times a week, nothing structured, got minimal results.

    When my mom’s doctor told her she needed to lose some weight to avoid diabetes, that’s when I really developed a workout plan, dragged her into it, and we haven’t deviated from our 5-day-a-week workouts in over a year.

    All we have is two benches (not even real weight benches, they’re just pieces of furniture that work as weight benches), two sets of dumbbells, a jump rope, and a very simple elliptical machine that my dad’s friend ordered, never used, and gave to my parents. We walk for about 1.5 miles, then do the weight routines from the book 5-Factor Fitness (awful recipes, awesome weight routines), then finish with me jumping rope and her on the elliptical. She’s looking great, and I can see my abs. All of my size 6 pants are falling off of me now.

    I love our routine, and I have zero desire to join a gym at this point. I never thought I could get the results I’ve gotten on my own, but it really isn’t rocket science.

  17. Dennis says 21 February 2008 at 06:26

    Push-ups are one of the best works out you can do. They are great for the entire upper body and are FREE. If you are like me and hate running but need to do cardio, you can do push-ups, squats, lunges and crunches without taking a break in between. It adds a great cardio element.

  18. Tom says 21 February 2008 at 06:39

    I bought a street bike in 1999. I used it heavily for two years and competed in several triathlons. Since 2001 I’ve been storing it in my garage and I’ve moved several times. I keep thinking about getting back into cycling.

    You have already spent the money to get your bike fixed up but I bet there are guys at a local cycling club or triathlon club that would hook you up for free just ’cause they love the sport and love working on bikes.

  19. pts says 21 February 2008 at 06:44

    A Bianchi Volpe! Excellent bike — well worth the money to get it tuned up and back in shape.

    Bicycles are a great way to exercise frugality and exercise frugally. When I decided to get back into cycling, I first bought an excellent book by Leonard Zinn called “Zinn and the art of Road Bike Maintenance.” It covers everything you’ll ever need to do to your road bike, and makes even complicated maintenance procedures quite clear. I read through it a couple of times and then started buying parts. My reasoning was that if I built my bike up from parts, not only would I have exactly what I wanted, but I’d know how to maintain it as soon as it was together.

    Building a bike from parts is less economical than buying an assembled bike, but I was willing to spend the extra money to get the experience I wanted. Since then, the gas I’ve saved by riding Buster the Wonder Bike has certainly been worth the extra couple hundred dollars.

    A decent-quality road bike (one costing $600 or so) is still inexpensive relative to the value you can derive from it, and I wholeheartedly endorse the use of one as both an exercise platform and a way to spend less money. I would advise any person considering a bicycle to go to a good bike shop and avoid Wal-Mart, etc., like the plague. The bikes are cheap, but the build quality is notoriously low, brakes will fail, the chain will fall out of adjustment, and it’s just not worth it if you want to enjoy riding at all.

    Hang onto that Volpe — you probably even have a pre-Taiwan factory frame, which means it was built in Italy, which carries with it a certain cachet among cyclists. πŸ™‚

  20. Jonathan says 21 February 2008 at 06:46

    I have always enjoyed being a part of a gym even with large monthly fees. I like a clean gym with new equipment. For me it is part of my routine and seeing a lot of people at the gym actually keeps me active. I run around 30-35 miles per week and my secret is podcasts. Great way to pass the time as well as watching a game on one of the tv’s on the machines.

    I don’t think I would use a home gym equipment. It would be too easy to slack off or cut my workouts short. For me, I think the monthly payments are worth it to me. I cut back in other ways, but that is just me.

  21. Bekah says 21 February 2008 at 06:49

    I am planning on joining a gym, simply because I can not stay motivated to work out at home. Lat year a new gym opened in my backyard. Literally: I can see it from my bedroom window and I walk through it’s parking lot on my to and from the subway everyday.

    A neighborhood group has a deal where you give them a $10 donation (which goes towards various community improvement efforts), and the gym gives you a one year membership discounted to $379. That’s certainly less than I would pay buying even minimum equipment for my home. My health insurance will also credit me back $150 of that if I stay for at least 4 months.

    I used to belong to a martial arts center, and went 4-6 days a week for a year and a half (at about $100 a month) before health and financial problems caused me to stop my membership. I need the group atmosphere to get me off the couch.

  22. nmh says 21 February 2008 at 06:50

    If you have netflix they have a pretty large selection of work out videos available for instant viewing. I have found several that I like and rotate. After the kids go to bed I do 15-20 minutes of yoga, or pilates or whatever I’m in the mood for that day. Its been good for me — and another reason to love the unlimited instant viewing!

  23. Covert7 says 21 February 2008 at 07:07

    Dude, I didn’t know they had a DDR for the Wii!! Why the heck didn’t I know this? Little bit of exercise for the wife and me to enjoy!

    Honestly though, have you enjoyed it or is it a “Meh” type game for you? I think it would be nice to get something like this to have fun and get a bit of exercise in. Kinda like Wii Boxing. You play that game a certain way and you will be sweating for sure!

  24. TD says 21 February 2008 at 07:07

    If you get into running, is a great site to check out. Free logging software and forum for discussing running at all different levels. It is constantly improving and developer is active in the community.

  25. TosaJen says 21 February 2008 at 07:20

    I can get myself to do the boring inside exercise stuff only if I have a goal that I’m looking forward to: trail running! cross-country skiing! cycling! skating!

    I also like to buy “toys” to make working out more tolerable and less boring. I do it the same way I buy all the other stuff, though — want it for a while, research it for a while, find it (or something cheaper that does the job well enough) at a good price, pounce! Toys are great, so long as you use them!

  26. J.D. says 21 February 2008 at 07:22

    Dude, I didn’t know they had a DDR for the Wii!! Why the heck didn’t I know this? Little bit of exercise for the wife and me to enjoy! Honestly though, have you enjoyed it or is it a “Meh”-type game for you?

    Heh. Kris and I love DDR-Wii. It’s a great way to unwind, and it’s also a great way to get some exercise. The funny thing is, you don’t even realize you’re exercising until you quit and you’re covered in sweat.

  27. Tootie says 21 February 2008 at 07:23

    There’s always running! All you need is a pair of running shoes, and you can be on your way.

    Good luck!

  28. Covert7 says 21 February 2008 at 07:40

    Ok thanks for the info JD. Gonna see if we can find enough spare change to pick up a copy. Thanks again!

  29. Jeffeb3 says 21 February 2008 at 07:40

    WHa?!?! You can run without a treadmill?

    I like your get fit lowly technique. Try to focus less on the gimmicks, and more on the way you feel after you exercise. Gym clothes, bags, memberships, fancy equipment, heart rate monitors, electronic logs, fancy bikes, they are all great, but what you really want, what you really need is to be in shape. The spending causes guilt, which causes low pride, which causes less exercise.

  30. Jessica says 21 February 2008 at 07:49

    I found myself looking for a little more structure, and ended up finding great exercise and yoga class podcasts on iTunes for free. It’s great for spicing up my routine when I get bored.

  31. Robert Nagle says 21 February 2008 at 07:52

    One thing you forgot is exercise videos. Here’s a list of exercise videos I wrote reviews of.

    You have minimum equipment requirements. Light weights, a step thingie, a big rubber ball. The vids cost less than $10. (I usually rent them first through Netflix and then buy used copies of whatever I want to keep). You have professional trainers and eye candy, plus, you can turn down the sound and catch up on podcasts!

  32. Judy says 21 February 2008 at 08:09

    Here is a great diet website that is free. Cut and paste . It has it all. Community, support networking customized diet programs, customized exercise programs, goal setting programs and charting for progress and success. AND ITS FREE. Now all I need is the willpower to log in everyday.

  33. Daren R says 21 February 2008 at 08:11

    If you want a workout program with almost no cost (all you need is a place to do pullups) and very little time, check out I’ve been on the program for several weeks and I’ve lost weight and put on muscle.

  34. Stephanie says 21 February 2008 at 08:25

    Aerobics DVDs are also much cheaper than taking a class, and if you find one you like and can stick to, you’re set for days when the weather isn’t conducive to outdoor exercise.

  35. Atomic Bombshell says 21 February 2008 at 08:31

    As I was reading the article I was thinking, “That Bianchi is radical! I hope he gets it fixed up and hits the tarmac!” and sure enough you did. Congratulations on getting out on the bike. I kid you not, cycling has changed my life. HAVE FUN!!!

  36. Jeremy Hall says 21 February 2008 at 08:35

    I’d like to put in a good word for the simple exercises that don’t require any equipment at all. The old fashioned push-ups, sit-ups and walking do amazing things if you simply to them. Sure, they may not be as attractive as using some fancy equipment, but they do the job. Weights and other devices are great to take you to the “next level” of fitness, but most of us just need to get to that first level of fitness before we worry about anything else!

  37. Jesse Englert says 21 February 2008 at 08:39

    Checkout to track your rides and distance. You can use it to set your 2000 miles goal and the site will graph your progress. Also, you can embed some of your training data in your blog so we can hold you accountable!

  38. Daniel says 21 February 2008 at 08:42

    Congrats on getting in shape. I occasionally lurk over at gfs. 1st off, I hope you are also saving for Wii Fit. From everything I’ve heard and read, it’s awesome! 2nd, my wife and I visit it’s a great program that you can do on your own. We started out joining a crossfit gym (for about $240/month!!!) we got comfortable with the excercises and started following along online because they give you a free daily workout. It is awesome, and it’s what all the armed services do to get in shape.

    Keep up the good work!

  39. Holly says 21 February 2008 at 08:45

    Don’t forget your public library! I get tons of different yoga videos and rotate them, to supplement my twice-weekly classes. So for my at-home practice, all I’ve had to pay for is my yoga mat, which was about $10.

    Of course there are tons of other exercise videos at the library too!

  40. Stephen says 21 February 2008 at 08:46

    I have an alumnus membership through my university gym at $400/year. I haven’t used it since I sprained my ankle last March. πŸ™‚

    Before that, I followed the workouts at I like the variety, intensity, flexibility, and brevity of the workouts. In the forum and in articles, they have lots of information on low-cost home fitness and adapting workouts to your existing equipment and fitness level. It helped to have workout partners.

    Before trying that out, I read the articles at In particular, I was surprised to find that research (like supported the idea that shorter, more intense exercise was more effective for everyone but extreme endurance athletes. It saves time, too.

    Oh, and my brother tried out 5BX for a while ( Summary: Canadian military physical fitness program at 11 minutes per day with no fitness equipment.

  41. Jared says 21 February 2008 at 08:57

    good for you! i like to see people cycling because it’s a great way to get around and exercise. i’m fortunate enough to live in seattle where the city, if not the weather, is pretty bike friendly. and it looks like you live in an area with a fair bit of scenic open road, which makes it all the easier to get out.

    and remember, the more you look like a dork, the more likely cars are going to see you and not hit you πŸ™‚

  42. Chris says 21 February 2008 at 09:01

    Good post JD.

    Since the new year started, I’ve been biking regularly on our home exercise bike (3-5 times/week) and getting out of the house on real bike rides and snowshoeing in the Sierras when I can. In terms of strength training, I mostly just do push ups and situps and the occasional pull up. We also have a few resistance bands, and they work okay for arm and shoulder exercises. We don’t have alot of space, so these things seem to work okay for me.

  43. greenfamily says 21 February 2008 at 09:23

    Wow, I came here to post a comment on some additional fitness ideas, and so far almost every one of them has already been covered! What a thorough and committed group of readers you’ve got here!

    One thing I would like to add, however, is partner DANCE. If you want to burn calories and learn an amazing skill that really makes you feel good about yourself (and wooing your wife or dazzling your husband), check out your local papers and dance studios for group classes (swing, salsa, ballroom, whatever!). If you buy a set of classes (such as 8 weeks) up front it usually averages out to about $10 a class. The long-term value in such an investment is that once you learn the moves you can practice them at home anytime! Put the kids to bed, pop in a CD, light a few candles, and get your sweat on. πŸ™‚ What happens after than can burn calories too…hehe.

    My husband is a dance instructor and I can’t tell you how much enjoyment (and fitness) we’ve accomplished dancing together. Nine days overdue with our son, we were still boogy-ing down, hoping to shake that baby loose! Dancing is a wonderful way to enrich your life and get fit at the same time. Try it!

  44. Cara says 21 February 2008 at 09:39

    Fitness is one area of my life where I spend more money than perhaps I should. I simply cannot push myself hard enough when I work out at home, so the monetary savings of a home gym are not worth the physical “losses.”
    I have been going to a boxing gym for almost eight years now, for boxing fitness classes. I do that 3-5 times per week; unfortunately, the gym has classes only, it’s not a full gym. I also take a conditioning/yoga class 3 days a week, at a yoga studio; again, they offer classes only. Now I’m considering adding some morning “boot camp” classes which are near my house. But once again, I’d be paying for classes, not a gym that’s open all day. I know, I know. But I am (happily) at a level of fitness now, and (frankly) at an age, that requires me to really push myself if I want to maintain or improve my strength, stamina, and flexibility. I don’t want to “coast” and I know myself well enough to realize that without a very challenging class structure, I will do just that.
    Fitness is really important to me, so I spend money on it. I have no CC debt, but I do have a mortgage and a small car payment. I have an emergency fund that I’m adding to every month. I don’t have kids, I’m not married. I contribute to a 401(k). So right now, I’m okay with spending money on these classes. When and if I do get married/have kids, though, I know that something will have to change. I’m actually considering the idea that I could train to become a yoga instructor or personal trainer; that might allow me to make extra money, obtain free or low-cost gym memberships, and help others achieve their own fitness goals.

  45. Fox Cutter says 21 February 2008 at 09:47

    Do you have a hand held GPS unit? If so you can add Geocaching ( to your list of activities. It’s free, fun and outdoors.

    I’ve been doing it for years and it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve found caches out in the woods and in parks I never even knew existed. There are a lot of puzzle caches as well.

    If you don’t have a GPS you can still use Googel maps to find the general location you are looking for, though that’s better for urban caches.

    Though, in my oppinion, if you’re going hiking in the woods you want a GPS anyways. You can find them for less the $100 dollars and it’s a net savings if you compare it to S&R if you do get lost in the woods πŸ™‚

  46. Mike says 21 February 2008 at 09:48 has many different exercises that require little or no equipment.

  47. Troy says 21 February 2008 at 09:48

    My research and experience have led me to believe that weight training is the MOST important piece of the puzzle for long term fitness. As a previous poster pointed out, 1 lb of muscle will burn 30-40 calories per day just to maintain itself. If burned calories are income then this is passive income. You have to continue to weight train to keep from losing it, but it is working for you 24 hours per day.

  48. Frugal Dad says 21 February 2008 at 09:59

    It sounds like you are doing exactly the right things, and I’m inspired by your progress. I’ve become a real lard butt this winter. I had shoulder surgery last year and I’ve basically sat around feeling sorry for myself and gaining weight. I’m hopeful the spring weather will jolt my vibes and get me back outdoors and moving.

  49. Aaron Pinkston says 21 February 2008 at 10:01

    You look fine on the bike. I heard once there was an inverse relationship between your distance from a bike and how cool you look in gear.

    I like bodyweight exercises and running (plus its cheap), but whatever works for you.

  50. Sam says 21 February 2008 at 10:02

    I signed up for a 6 mo. gym membership (to get ready for our wedding) at the same gym my husband uses. I’m not a gym person so I paid more per month for a shorter membership and I paid for the membership up front and in cash (did not give any access to my bank account or credit card for monthly billing). I did use the gym to prepare to get in shape prior to our wedding but stopped using it shortly after the big day and let my membership lapse.

    If you are going to go with a gym, I suggest signing up for a short pre-paid membership or pay each time you go until you figure out whether you’ll stick with your gym routine.

  51. Anca says 21 February 2008 at 10:11

    I’m pretty luckly in that our new apartment building has a workout room just down the hall with many machines. I just started an exercise program using several of the weight machines and some free weights and my boyfriend is coaching me. I take paper and pen and write the weight and reps I did, then I track in a graph in Excel.

  52. Jay says 21 February 2008 at 10:21

    I too had equipment laying around that I could use. But I lack the discipline to work out at home. I decided on a gym membership and signed a contract so that I would “force” myself go and not let the money go to waste. I have found this to be a great disciplinary act, as I am sure I would easily push working out to the side if I didn’t have to leave my house to get it done. By having a membership I have accountability to comit to my goals of getting ripped. πŸ™‚ I also invested in one-on-one lessons from a personal trainer; expensive but far worth the price. As they say, price is what you pay, value is what you get. I meet with a trainer once a week and the cost is $35 each visit. With my monthly membership fee and the weekly lessons, I spend around $200 per month in health and fitness costs. I would highly reccomend a trainer as not only will you get in shape but you will gain extensive knowledge on your anatomy, dieting, and medical health. $35 is cheap for all the information I recieve. $35 barely fills up my gas tank, I think I can easily invest the same amount of money im giving to Exxon, into myself. Im worth more than Exxon, and JD you are too. πŸ™‚

  53. Soire says 21 February 2008 at 11:06

    I’m a member of the local Y (since november), and love it, but also have some weights at home that I use on the weekends (they’re 3 years and 30lbs, and 5 years and 48lbs respectively…).

    I own a bike, but the chain falls off because the gearing is wonky, despite several trips to a local repair shop… but my roller blades and ice skates are in good condition, and I’ve recently become enamoured of Running, and signed up for 2 – 10K races (March/May) My roller blades, and Rugby keep me active in the summer, and ice skates and belly dance in the winter..

    .. except that I’m actually gaining weight?! So, I joined “Sparkspeople”‘s website – which tracks both excercise and calories eaten… and WOW I eat a lot! πŸ˜› If you decide you want more than just an excercise tracker, check it out, it’s pretty awesome.

  54. Amberlynn says 21 February 2008 at 11:21

    Way to go J.D.! It an be so tempting to pay for a membership simply for motivation, and let the equipment (not to mention free situps/pushups, etc.) sit at home unused. There are better ways to motivate yourself than paying a bunch now… looking at the savings and realizing what an investment good health is sure help.

  55. Dividends4Life says 21 February 2008 at 11:27

    I have been well-pleased with my elliptical machine. It is good on the joints and I don’t have to be concerned about the weather.

    Best Wishes,

  56. Brakhage says 21 February 2008 at 11:46

    I knew a guy who was one of the most fit people I’d ever seen, and I asked him what he did. I assumed he had some massive gym membership, but no. All he did was running, pullups, situps, and pushups. He told me that working against your own body weight is all you really need to do. (He was ex-Red Army so he was used to making do with less ^_^)

    $20 pullup bar from Amazon β€” best $20 I ever spent.

  57. TC says 21 February 2008 at 12:04

    Just so’s you don’t feel badly about it…the YMCA around here is pretty expensive–a couple hundred annual membership fee, an initiation fee, and then something around $50 or more a month. I actually belonged for a while, but it became a first-cut item when I decided to try to get back onto a reasonable budget. You’re better doing it your way. (Me, I’ve become a major multi-tasking walker, putting in close to 20 miles a week and running errands as I go. Lugging groceries back up the hill to my house adds weight training to my cardio-enhancing walking!)

  58. jb says 21 February 2008 at 12:24

    I recently decided to make regular exercise a part of my life. I had a gym membership (I split a family membership [$90/mo] at the YMCA with my sister), but I gave it up to cut back on spending. Ironically this has turned out to be a wonderful decision. I took up running, which costs me nothing but a pair of shoes, and I do it much more frequently than I ever used the gym because I don’t have to get in the car and drive somewhere to do it. I just step out my door and go!

  59. Carrie at NaturalMomsTalkRadio says 21 February 2008 at 12:29

    Great post – I have to say though, there is ONE distinct advantage that may make a gym membership worth every single penny.

    I’m a single/stay at home/work at home/homeschooling Mom of 4 (read: busy and with constant contact with little people) and find it excrutiatingly hard to find time/space to exercise.

    If I put in my Pilates dvd, my 2 y.o. thinks it’s time to jump on my head. And my 9 and 7 year old boys mimic me and make me laugh – and try holding your core when that happens!

    If I go for a walk, the kids bicker about who gets to stand next to me (they’re SO starved for attention y’know!) which defeats the entire stress releasing phenomenon of exercise.

    Many gyms offer FREE KID CARE. I joined a gym (got a great deal – $300 for 3 years, they were brand new and needed members) in the town I used to live in and would go work out FIVE days a week just to enjoy a BREAK for 45 minutes a pop – PLUS I got to SHOWER without peeping Toms, screamers and peek-a-boo with the shower curtain players!

    That, my friend, is worth all the money in the world. Sadly, I moved to the other side of town and there is no gym that offers that for the price.

    And you’re handsomer than I had imagined. πŸ™‚

  60. A says 21 February 2008 at 12:31

    I think it’s important to remember a couple things in regards to this topic:

    1) Fitness in general is a GREAT long term investment
    2) The best investment you can make towards your own fitness is whatever will work for you personally (even if the upfront cost is higher than what works best for your wife or best friend).

    I tried for a few months to lose some weight by running and controlling my portions. While I did have a bit of success (losing seven pounds over a couple of months) I found that many days I’d come home and talk myself into taking care of menial task A before running, and ultimately not go. Why? Because I hated running.

    Around Christmas I finally ‘broke the bank’ and signed up for a gym membership. It cost over $100 upfront, and runs me another $18 a month. It’s also a whole lot cheaper in the long run FOR ME than the free running, because I actually go do it. As a result, I’ve lost over 20lbs since Christmas and will soon be able to focus more on building muscle.

    Overall, I’d say the best investment I’ve made in my own fitness so far has been a small gym bag I got as a Christmas gift and didn’t even have to buy myself. All it does is carry gym shoes and workout clothes, but because I can go straight to the gym on my way home from work it’s become just part of my routine in a ‘when your mind blanks out your feet carry you there anyway’ kind of way. With no chance to talk myself into watching a Friends rerun or starting the laundry before hitting the gym, it just happens.

    The bottom line is that for fitness to be sustainable long term, it HAS to be that kind of habitual lifestyle shift. As far as I can tell, that means you simply have to find a form of excersise you can ENJOY doing and will stick with, regardless of the initial cost.

  61. drhands says 21 February 2008 at 12:49


    I think you really hit on something. My exercise capacity is completely different when exercising alone vs. playing a sport with friends. The drive to not only win but also avoid looking bad is powerful.

    J.D., see if your city or a nearby city has recreational team sports leagues.

    You haven’t lived until you have played co-ed city-league kickball. πŸ™‚

  62. brg says 21 February 2008 at 13:02

    I second Stephen’s (#40) crossfit suggestion. Their site’s full of good info.

    One of my favorite fitness resources is Ross Enamait’s site, He offers tons of great information as well. I recommend it highly. Loads of great articles & vid clips, and a great discussion forum.

    Quoted from his site:
    “Founded by Ross Enamait, is dedicated to excellence and innovations in high performance conditioning and functional strength training. As you browse through the site, you will find routines and programs designed to develop athletes who are always ready for whatever life or competition may throw at them. will simplify the often confusing and complex world of physical fitness. My system emphasizes low-tech/high-effect methods. You do not need fancy equipment or a luxury gym to achieve elite physical fitness.”

  63. ~Dawn says 21 February 2008 at 13:19

    I need to get a bike to get to work, I only live 15 minutes by car- But I really like my scooter…decisions, decisions

    Thanks for the linkage JD

  64. Ian says 21 February 2008 at 13:50


    We’ve had one in our basement that we inherited from my inlaws. I wrote it off as some weirdo infomercial fad.

    After some frustration getting good upper back workout with my free-weights, I tried the ridiculous looking HR. It works. It’s great for upper back pain that I get from slouching in front of a computer all day and it’s a great leg and glute workout too.

    It’s really a rowing machine.

    Also, I have some workout equipment in easy-to-guilt places.

    We put our recumbent stationary bike in the living room facing the tv.

    Also, I put a pair of dumbells on my dresser, so I am forced to have them nagging me to pick them up — even for one quick set.

    Good luck JD.

  65. Jesse says 21 February 2008 at 13:52

    Now, I am going to be the one person on the entire page to disagree I think πŸ™‚

    Belong to a health club is one of the things that I don’t mind paying for, and for a lot of reasons.

    1) It puts me in a routine – if I am lifting at home (I do have weights) it is easier for me to break routine or get distracted

    2) I live in colorado – I can’t use the city raquetball courts in the winter (and I love playing)

    3) There is a pool – I used to enjoy triathalons, I haven’t been as involved lately, but having a lap pool is nice

    4) Hot tub – Personal preference, but its great for soaking if I am really sore.

    5) Friendship – Though I do not socialize too much at the gym, I have made friends there, and they are usually motivational friends. When I need a kick in the butt, they are around to help.

    Anyway just a personal opinion πŸ™‚

  66. Warren T says 21 February 2008 at 15:27

    Prior to beginning to commute by bike a few years ago I burned calories by jumping rope. I’ll still break it out on days I need to burn off a little more energy. Jumping rope for 5 minutes, for me, burns as many calories as riding one mile.

    Cheap equipment that is easy to take on the road.

  67. Tom S says 21 February 2008 at 17:52

    I happen to be a person that doesn’t like gyms, it’s just not for me. I’m 29 and I consider myself in considerably better shape then when I was 18 and I’ve been slacking lately too.

    Just like you discovered when you pulled your bike out again the most important thing about working out/exercise is to have fun! You’re more likely to keep doing something if you can get some adrenaline flowing.

    If you want something else to read that should give a ton of different exercises and ideas check out Men’s Health. I have a subscription and I consider it well worth it.

  68. Jerry says 21 February 2008 at 19:38

    Good for you for taking the plunge to get your health in order. It seems that one leads to the other. Once you get one major area in your life organized (money) you want to move on to another (health). That’s great and you didn’t look like that much of a dork. I like to ride, too, so your picture gave me a good chuckle. I used to belong to a gym because our insurance gave us a small break for have a membership and meeting the monthly attendance requirements however, I found I could get just as good a workout at home and that’s what I did. I save gym fees and I feel good about taking charge of my fitness.

    Kudos, bruthuh!!


  69. Wildcat says 21 February 2008 at 21:27

    I’m a full-time student. Wanna know what contributed the most to my $1000 debt? (It’s now paid off, btw, but I had to work a PT job from hell in order to do that.)

    Well, I decided it would be a great idea to get in shape…by hiring a PERSONAL TRAINER and paying with my credit card. I didn’t really consider how I would pay for it…just knew eventually, I should make enough money to cover that. I thought…hey, what a good cause for the rest of my life!

    However, that was a failed plan. I didn’t get into significantly better shape and didn’t keep it up. I spent over $600 for maybe 2 months’ worth of working out twice a week.

    Over the past year, however, I ran occasionally with my boyfriend. He inspired me to run more and throughout 2008, I’ve been running regularly, at least a few times a week. It doesn’t cost me ANYTHING and the progress has been AMAZING! I’ve lost about 10 pounds in 2 months and feel so much better about myself. Plus, it’s fun to track how far and fast I run. Today I ran the furthest yet, 4.9 miles without stopping.

    So really, I think the key to success is MOTIVATION. Don’t invest in ANYTHING that you’re not motivated enough to keep up.

  70. Kevin says 22 February 2008 at 05:11

    This is exactly what I’m talking about in Dumb Money: The Gym.

    You are surrounded by things you have already spent money on — why not use them to exercise rather than spending more money? Heck, you could do arm curls with peanut butter jars for all I care. Good for you for noticing the things around you.

  71. Gnashchick says 22 February 2008 at 07:38

    No worries, JD. The only people who don’t look like dorks on their bikes are the athletes who are competing in the Tour de France. Embrace your bike dorkitude! One of us! One of us! πŸ˜‰

  72. ben says 22 February 2008 at 22:39

    another plug for

    he has a book he wrote for a “gym less” solution. He wrote after being in a situation where he had to take care of his new baby but also keep up with training. I’ve read his book last week and I’ve been entirely enthralled about it. It is the most common sense book about fitness you’ll ever read.

  73. Maggie says 24 February 2008 at 07:47

    If you have the space to set up your home gym equipment but are lacking in motivation, you could consider picking a few nights a week to open “Gym Get Fit Slowly” and invite your favorite friends and neighbors to join you. This would help provide a little accountability (what if someone shows up to work out and discovers your gym equipment is being used to dry laundry?) and also some socializing. I always struggle to get into an exercise routine without a partner motivating me although it sounds like you’re doing a great job already!

  74. Matt says 24 February 2008 at 12:18

    It is possible that you would ride more if you had a new, high-quality bike, but (as you’ve experienced) purchasing new exercise equipment with good intentions often fails. I’m hoping to start riding again soon, too (I used to ride my bike everywhere in high school and college), but I’m not excited about the old, hand-me-down mountain bike I have. If I decide I want to buy a new bike, I’m going to create a contract for myself that requires me to ride my bike a certain number of days per week for a few months in order to “earn” or justify the new bike.

    Read about my feelings on health clubs here:

  75. Shanti says 25 February 2008 at 18:15

    This is a great post! I found the same thing when thinking about buying some new hiking gear. I WANTED all these new things but after doing an assessment, I realized that I already had them. Sheesh.

    As part of your 2008 in 2008, you should bike up to Seattle and we can go biking with my friend Samantha! We’re slowly becoming total biking fiends (come on rain, go away!). You could come and we could bike and chat personal finance for an afternoon. Sound like fun to me πŸ˜‰

  76. Angelo says 26 February 2008 at 19:33

    There is the Nike + for the ipod nano that tracks the miles, calories burned, time elapsed and u can even sync it with the Nike + website to track your miles with friends and others around the world. It’s only 30 bucks.

    its a great way to start running and u dont have to buy expensive nike + shoes. For like 5 bucks u can buy online a holder for the sensor so u can tuck it in your laces.

  77. Pascale says 11 March 2008 at 14:34

    I love your post. Gyms are great—if you use them! I’ve been a fitness professional for years and it’s always disturbed me how many people buy gym memberships then never use them.

    Would it be ok to tell you about another inexpensive way to get fit. Though it may appear as a shameful way to plug my site (and it is just a little), I really believe that our website offers a true value and service to many people. We are “Workouts On Demand” and we offer over 70 online exercise videos. Pilates, Yoga, Toning, Cardio–and we add new videos every week so the content is always fresh.

    Please feel free to email me via the site if you have questions or would like more information.

    Pascale Vandenbroucke

  78. Jack Tidwell says 27 April 2008 at 01:21

    My wife and I woke up to being obese, started gradually walking together three times a week and eating five times a day measured meals. A year later I am fifty pounds lighter and have replaced the blubber with a 60 pound weight jacket on the three mile up and down hill walks, talking most of the time but aerobically not on the fast pace times especially uphill. I now carry my golf clubs like it was a purse. Still losing. Pushups and abs exercises of various kinds also.

    Oh and I love this one… the big rubber ball…. its called supermans…. twenty times for three sets you lay on your stomach and raise your left arm and right leg and then alternate to the other side.
    I am six five going on 35 now. 46 pants down to 34. It cost me a wardrobe. And 7 dollars every two weeks or so for Just For Men hair coloring. Incognito cazito.

  79. Bcarter says 25 July 2010 at 19:44

    Not only should you look in your own home for ways to get in shape, but you’d be surprised at what you can find at the curb or on Craigslist for free.

    We have found our exercise bike which I use daily and treadmill on the curb. Both work great, I’m assuming the owners were just making room in their basement.

    Their loss and my gain (or weight loss).


  80. Kyle the boot camp guru says 27 July 2010 at 14:49

    Although I agree gym memberships are a waste for most, I do think that people ought to seek out a support group whether that be in the form of workout partners, family or friends.

    I’ve always found it’s a lot easier to stay motivated and reach my goals when I have other people around to push me and hold me accountable.

  81. Jevaughn the Sciatic Stretches Guy says 11 August 2010 at 16:20

    When I decided I needed to try to put some muscle on & trim some fat off this frame of mine, there was only a half-dead stationary bike and 2 dumbbells in the house, so the equipment bonanza you had stockpiled sounds amazing to me J.D. – but I bet that situation’s true of a lot of people.

    Did some basic weightlifting for a few months – saw little results & got to dislike it too: was really inconvenient to get to the “gym” (I use the word loosely) I was using for 1 thing.

    And then I discovered bodyweight exercises and haven’t looked back since. No gym, no leaving home, no expense, no equipment save for a mat, fingerless gloves, the floor and the wall. πŸ™‚ Not any of the wimpy drawn-out stuff either. Very nice.

    I think cycling’s great too, but no bike & not my cup-a-tea right now. Maybe someday though…

    Peace & Victory

  82. Walter the burn calories guy says 21 October 2010 at 11:21

    Great post.. when I was trying to get my fitness in control I tried a lot of different avenues and for some time it worked but then I’d end up in my same routine. What I noticed really worked for me in the end was picking up a healthier walking routine, so instead of meeting friends at a restruant i’d meet them at the park, or for other physical activities, like playing a round of squash, or racquetball. This got me out more often and fitter quicker.

    I talk about other great ways to burn calories on

    Do give it a read and post your comments on that.



  83. Melyssa says 06 November 2010 at 21:23

    Cool post. I used to be a gym rat. But now that I have a son, I can’t run off the gym for an hour or so. Plus, I live outside of town, so it takes time to get there and back. Since I took up running, I knew I had to cross train, and I’ve always enjoyed weight lifting. I’ve always wanted my own home gym, and I’m slowly in the process of building it.

    I had my own set of 10lb dumbbells, and I got a set of 20lb dumbbells for free from a friend. I purchased a treadmill which was marked off about 60% because they were getting new models in. I live in a flat area and hills kill me, so I purchased a treadmill for the incline function, and to use when it’s raining outside.

    My bike is 12yrs old, but it works just fine. There are some nice bikes out there, and it really is tempting, but luckily I enjoy mine.

  84. philip jun says 24 October 2011 at 23:49

    Nice blog. I have found this to be a great disciplinary act, as I am sure I would easily push working out to the side if I didn’t have to leave my house to get it done. By having a membership I have accountability to comit to my goals to have a nice looking body. πŸ™‚ I also exercise in my house sometimes if im tired go to gym.

  85. Caitlin Eerkes says 23 January 2013 at 18:23

    So very very cool! I am glad I came across your site! Some points I completely agree with and knew about, but some stuff I had not thought about! Thanks!

  86. Rolland Pedde says 25 February 2013 at 14:04

    My greatest problem in weight loss are carbs! I love them and they love me!

  87. Tom Richards says 20 April 2013 at 19:35

    I actually think there is something genius about not only doing the fitness goals gradually but also in the slow investment of your resources to help you get there. Never thought of this before but this could work as sort of a reward system where you have to earn that newer and better bike for example. Not sure if that was your intention but I am running with this.

  88. Curtis Fisher says 26 February 2014 at 23:26

    Working out at home and outdoors is a great way to stay active by implementing the calisthenics training.

    There’s always the local parks where you can take advantage of the bars by doing wide overhand grip pullups and close underhand grip pullups to work the back and different areas.

    The best part about training without weights or in a gym is that you strengthen the ligaments and tendons. Not to mention the joints which tend to become achy and weaker with years of weight training.

    Outdoor and home training can be just as beneficial and prepare you for when you do join a gym by building a foundation of strength and coordination.

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