How to get fit on a budget
Fitness is one of those areas where you can literally spend as much money as you have. There are gyms that cost $10 per month and there are gyms—sorry, fitness studios– that will make you run $50 or more per workout. There’s a similar wide open price range for apparel, apps, home gear, and everything in between. So where can you save money without sacrificing a good workout? Almost everywhere, it turns out.
How to save money on sportswear
You can train in the best technical absorbent fabrics and/or crinkle leggings, or you can train in old, tattered sweatpants. Your lungs and your muscles don’t know the difference.
There are a few elements and features that may worth paying more for. One is a sports bra: IIf you have boobs and plan to do “high impact” exercises (running and jumping), your bra choice is quite important. Supportive bras in larger sizes tend to be expensive. But if you’re just starting to exercise and buying bras discourages you, any regular, comfortable bra is usually sufficient for low-impact activities like cycling and weightlifting.
As for shirts and shorts, inexpensive clothes are fine if you find them comfortable. Some people hate the sweaty feel of cotton, so if that’s you, you might want to shell out for sweat-wicking fabrics, although you can buy off-brand items inexpensively. If you don’t care about fabric, you can just wear any t-shirt you already own. Pro tip: I buy black undershirts from the men’s section of Target ($4 each) and these are my most comfortable workout tops.
Compression leggings and shorts are another area where paying more can get you better quality, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t great deals to be had. Mid-range brands like GRRL and Senita make quality items that last and aren’t see-through, but I’ve also heard good things about cheap Amazon leggings. (A good place to look for recommendations on the latter and find sales on the former: the r/xxfitness Son of Saturday Style.)
How to save money on sneakers
There is a wide range of shoes that can work for exercise, depending on the type of exercise you do. That’s even if you need shoes.
For yoga, barre, Pilates, and some types of kettlebell and “functional” training, you don’t need shoes at all. Socks with a grippy bottom are recommended for barre classes, but you can get away with regular socks. And the others in this category are often barefoot. (Check with the gym to see if they require or recommend shoes.)
For running, the important thing is simply that your shoes are comfortable when you run. Yes, running shoes can be very expensive, and they wear out so quickly that they are essentially disposable. But an inexpensive pair of sneakers is great to start with, and some shoes last much longer than expected. (In my experience, the more expensive shoes tend to be made with fancy foams that wear out faster, making budget models an even better choice than the price suggests.)
For lifting and general fitness, flat-soled shoes like Converse or Vans (or their off-brand equivalents) are versatile and inexpensive. Again, you may already have a pair.
weightlifting shoes, the kind with a raised heel, are another type of shoe that is way more expensive than it has a right to be. On the bright side, you don’t need (you can wear flats and squat with plates under your heels) and if you buy a pair they will last a long time.
How to save money on a gym membership
Shopping for gym memberships is boring as hell. Some gyms won’t tell you the price in advance; others will, but it turns out there are hidden charges or you’ll have to upgrade to get ‘benefits’ that seem like they should be part of the base subscription.
But yes, itheap gyms are worth it. We have a post here about the compromises you make when you join one of these gyms with a $10 or $15 monthly membership. Basically, you usually won’t have access to a barbell, so your dreams of being a competitive weightlifter or powerlifter will have to be put on hold. But if you just want to get strong and fit, you can absolutely do that with the dumbbells and machines from a Planet Fitness, Crunch or similar.
For more options, consider broadening your search to community fitness centers. Your town may have a gym available for free or low cost to residents, and the neighboring town may have one whose non-resident fee is still a bargain.
How to Save Money on Exercise Apps and Gadgets
This one is almost a trick question. You don’t need any of that. You can jogging without a smartwatch. You can log your miles, weights lifted, and any other metrics you want to track in a paper notebook. You can remember that actually it doesn’t matter how many calories a fitness tracker thinks you’ve burned.
I’ve used a bunch of different apps and gadgets, mostly because I tested them for work; and I always log everything in a paper notebook and leave all my watches and trackers at home.
How to exercise for free
- Go running. (It requires shoes and, for some of us, a sports bra, but putting one foot in front of the other is free.)
- Go for a walk, hike or ruck. (Rucking involves walking with a weighted vest or backpack.)
- Use a fitness trail, which you can find in many random parks. They have equipment for bodyweight exercises and a place to jog.
- do it Reddit Bodyweight Fitness Workout. Some moves require a bar (like pull-ups or rows), but you can find one on a fitness trail or just keep an eye out for well-placed railings.
- Or try these bodyweight exercises that are actually good for building muscle. Again, some require minimal equipment like a chair or railing, but many don’t.
- Do cardio with YouTube videos, whether you prefer K-pop choreography or retro routines Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons.
Is home gym equipment worth it?
Some home gym equipment is definitely worth it. Some sufficiently heavy weights will fill the void that jogging and strength training tend to leave. A few pairs of dumbbells or a few kettlebells are a great idea. If you can scrape up the cash for a squat rack, barbell, and weights, you can do a lot with that.
But beware of the temptation to build an entire home gym. I say that from experience :BBefore the pandemic, I had a rusty barbell and a few miscellaneous weights. I now own a squat rack and an embarrassing number of kettlebells, and I can no longer park my car in my garage. I love all my iron heavy children, but they are not savers.
A home gym is a good option for someone who’s willing to train with a limited amount of stuff — a few kettlebells, say — and feels pretty confident they’ll be happy with it in the long run. Splurge on a pair of Adjustable competition kettlebells and maybe a spin bike, and all your fitness needs will be covered for a long time. Or at least until you start wondering if it wouldn’t be nice to have a barbell, too…