Skip The Gym: 9 Awesome Workouts That Won't Cost You A Penny



UPDATED: It's officially bikini season, which means getting fit and healthy is high up on the to-do list. Luckily, these free workouts will save you a bundle in gym fees. This story was originally published on April 17, 2012.

We're fully aware of the benefits of pounding away on the treadmill, chugging through spin class, and sweating it out with hot yoga — you tone your bod, you feel good, you sleep better, and so on. But let's be honest: Working out on the regular can actually be pretty darn expensive, once you factor in pricey gym memberships and per-class fees. So, we did some digging and turned up nine super-cool ways to get fit without spending a dime — that's right, totally free.

We've got options for dancing, swimming, hiking, biking, and more, and we can assure you that these workouts are actually fun (and just as effective as your old gym routine). What's better than free and fun? Nothing — well, unless you count shopping for all the new things you can scoop with your recently restored funds.

slide01Photos: Courtesy of Kingman Island; Photographed by Madeline Beard; Courtesy of Rock Creek Conservancy

Kingman and Heritage Islands Park
Situated in the Anacostia River near RFK Stadium, Kingman Island is the place to go if you like having the outdoors all to yourself. Composed of two islands, the park offers over a mile and a half of trails for hiking and biking in the midst of a peaceful, all-natural oasis.
Where: Entrance located at RFK Stadium Parking Lot 6, 575 Oklahoma Avenue NE; 202-488-0627.

Joe's Movement Emporium
A home base for Mount Rainier's art scene, Joe's Movement Emporium hosts performances, exercise classes, workshops, and more — it's a veritable hodgepodge of fun physical activity. On Mondays, the community arts center offers a free hip-hop dance class for beginners at 7 p.m.
Where: 3309 Bunker Hill Road, Mount Rainier; 301-699-1819.

Rock Creek Park
The green jewel nestled in the midst of our chaotic city, Rock Creek Park is one of Washington's go-to spots for free-and-easy exercising. Whether you're into running, hiking, biking, outdoor circuit training, rollerblading, or walking, you can do it here for the low, low cost of absolutely nothing. Some highlights: paved bike paths, a 1.5-mile exercise course, no-fee tennis courts, and fields for soccer, football, and field hockey.
Where: Headquarters are located at 5200 Glover Road NW; 202-895-6070. Rock Creek Park can be accessed from dozens of points around the city; click here for a map.

slide02Photos: Courtesy of DCDPR; Courtesy of National Zoo; Photographed by Shira Karsen

Wilson Aquatic Center
Swimming is one of the best all-around workouts you can do, but you don't have to cough up a hefty gym membership to enjoy the perks of an Olympic-size pool and state-of-the-art facility. The Wilson Aquatic Center in Tenleytown is one of the city's newest (and nicest) indoor venues, and offers a 50-meter swimming pool, a leisure pool, a whirlpool, men's and women's locker rooms, and a viewing gallery.
Where: 4551 Fort Drive NW; 202-730-0583.

National Zoo
The National Zoo is already one of our favorite destinations, but there's more to do here than just admire the fuzzy inhabitants. There are 163 acres to explore, and you can easily hike or run through the park to work up a significant sweat — after all, some of these hills are pretty killer. Your quads will thank you later.
Where: 3001 Connecticut Avenue NW; 202-633-4486.

The Exorcist Steps
Creepy? Absolutely. But a no-pain-no-gain workout is worth the shivers you'll get when you make the 97-step trip up and down Georgetown's Exorcist Steps (so-named for their role in the 1973 horror flick, in which a Jesuit priest took a demon-induced tumble). Need motivation? You'll often find athletes from Georgetown and George Washington University getting their cardio fix here.
Where: Top entrance near 3600 Prospect Street NW; bottom entrance on M Street near the Key Bridge.
slide03Photos: Courtesy of Circle Yoga; Courtesy of Dance Place; Courtesy of EveryTrail/Kevin Purdy

Circle Yoga
Love feeling balanced, but stuck on a small budget? Get your oms for free with Circle Yoga's weekly all-levels yoga class on Saturdays at 12:30 p.m. Expect an extra-Zen vibe at this cooperatively owned studio.
Where: 3838 Northampton Street NW; 202-686-1104.

Dance Place
If you're looking for a low-impact exercise routine (or just a way to relieve workday tension), tai chi might just hit the spot. Head to Dance Place on Saturdays at 8:30 a.m. for a free beginners session.
Where: 3225 8th Street NE; 202-269-1600.

Mount Vernon Trail
The Mount Vernon Trail stretches for 18 miles, from historic Mount Vernon to Theodore Roosevelt Island in the middle of the Potomac River. Hop on for biking, running, and walking — there are tons of parks, monuments, and memorials along the way if you need to take a breather.
Where: You can access the trail at dozens of entry points; get more information here.