Can't Afford A Gym? These Workouts Are For You

If you buy into the hype about the latest must-do boutique fitness class all the cool people on Instagram are doing (or if you lust after the gorgeous facilities you can see through the window at the new, expensive gym in your neighborhood), you might think that the more money you spend on exercise, the better shape you’ll be in. The good news is, that's definitely not true.

While we don’t have anything against paying for a class or a gym membership you love if it fits into your budget, we're not into the idea that you need to spend money to get a good workout, for a few reasons.

First of all, there's a chance that whatever you're paying for actually isn't a great fit for your exercise preferences or your lifestyle. Maybe cardio machines totally bore you. Maybe you find the weight room intimidating and uncomfortable. Or maybe your gym or studio is simply too inconvenient to get to, so you hardly ever actually go. Yet you’re paying for that fancy membership anyhow. By forcing yourself to aim for the gym- or studio-rat life (and failing to actually do it) you’re not only wasting money, you’re also not doing your health any favors. What’s the point of paying for the perks of a membership if you don't really like it, or worse, rarely go?

And on the flip side, if you really think you need a class or a gym to work out, but you straight-up can’t afford it, this can lead you to skip exercise altogether.

The bottom line is that a good workout is simply one that you’ll actually do. So, whether you’re looking for cheap ways to get fit, or just seeking out fun, new ideas for supplementing your routine, all you need is a little creativity. Not sure what to do? We’ve got you covered. Click ahead for seven great ways to break a sweat without opening your wallet.
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Make It A Game

One of the main benefits of hitting up a class is that you have a set agenda to get through, so it’s much harder to stop in the middle because you’re tired or bored. You can deal a little fun (and structure) into your workout with a deck of cards.

Assign an exercise to each suit and do the number of reps that comes up on the card. The exercise possibilities are endless: Go more cardio-focused with moves such as jumping jacks, or boost your strength with moves like lunges (front, reverse, and side) and walkouts. Or “HITT” it big-time with high-intensity, full-body moves like mountain climbers. Aces are low in this scenario, so just do one rep for those. If you draw a jack, do 11 reps. For a queen, do 12; for a king, do 13.

You could do: spades for squats, clubs for alternating side lunges, diamonds for jumping jacks, and hearts for burpees (because who doesn’t love a burpee?). Challenge yourself to get through the entire deck.
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Build A DIY Home Gym

If you’re one of those people who loves the weight room, but hates the slog of actually making it to the weight room, you can bring the gym to you with equipment you have around your house.

That sturdy coffee table and that couch without cushions can become a bench or a step. A wooden chair can become a multi-use fitness tool. (In fact, here you’ll find 30 days of chair workouts.) A full gallon jug of water or milk weighs about eight pounds and can be used as a free weight or even a kettlebell. A duffel bag stuffed to the gills with towels can become a makeshift sandbag for loading squats or lunges or doing bent-over rows (hold the duffel from where the long shoulder strap connects to the bag), military presses (hold the bag close in right above your chest before you press it overhead), or chest presses (cradle the duffel in your hands, shoulder-width apart).
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Find Some Stairs

If you’ve got a flight of stairs (or even better, several flights in an apartment or office building), you’ve got a fabulous lower body and cardio workout.

Make it total body by building in intervals: Run up, walk down, do 10 pushups (elevate your hands on whatever stair tread you need to in order to put your body on the incline necessary for good form).

Next time, take the stairs two-by-two on the way up, walk down, then do a set of 10 frog jumps (start squatted down with your arms between your knees, then jump up, throwing your hands into the air) on the landing at the bottom. You can also play with taking the stairs sideways (lead with one leg onto each tread, and follow with the second). Other great body-weight moves to throw in: squats, walkouts, planks (front and side), and plank step-ups.

Aim for 20 to 30 minutes of work, total — the number of rounds will depend on how many stairs you have, and how fast you go!
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Run For Fun

You don’t need to be a “runner” to get a good cardio workout using your own two feet. Try an interval run/walk or even speed-walk/easy walk, fartlek-style, where you make it a game as to when you accelerate and when you slow down.

Choose landmarks such as mailboxes, telephone poles, or blocks, and vary your pace as you go from one to the next. Or use them as stations for integrating body weight exercises for a strength-training kick where you stop to do body weight exercises (squats, lunges, pushups, etc.) in sets of 10 or 15. It doesn’t matter how far you run or walk in each interval, as long as you challenge yourself and make it to your next landmark. A good session will last in total 30 to 45 minutes.
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Watch It On TV

Or on your laptop. Bring the swank studio to you with fitness classes via your Roku (try channels Free Fitness Videos and Daily Burn). Or you can use Amazon Prime Video; just search “fitness” for tons of options like Kundalini yoga and HIIT workouts from Lumowell.

Online, you can stream great yoga options on Gaia.com, and pretty much everything else on FitnessBlender.com. YouTube can also be a source of endless fitspiration: BeFit and Blogilates are good places to start.
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Or Turn Your Phone Into A Personal Trainer

While there’s no real substitute for in-person one-on-one coaching, apps like Nike+ Training Club and JEFIT offer not just individual workouts but customized programming to help you reach your goals — and hold you accountable if you skip your sessions.
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Make It A Date

Feeling a little less-than-motivated? Schedule an activity date with a friend or your significant other, so you can socialize and sweat in one go. Rent bikes (or dig yours out of storage) and pedal the waterfront or local Rails to Trails paths. Take a hike at a nearby scenic trail. Check out the local rec department for fitness-oriented events. Or, sign up for a one-off fitness class at a local studio as a way to get ideas for your solo workouts — this is a fun activity for you to do together, and it’s much cheaper than a membership. Another idea: Make your date with someone who has free guest passes to a gym! Hey, it’s not mooching if you’re good company.
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
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