5 ways to get fit on a budget

Take some pressure off your pocketbook with these tweaks to your fitness routine.

Three women practising yoga outdoors

Save money by practising yoga for free in the park (Photo by Getty Images).


1. Create your own class
You can spend a fortune going to endless fitness classes. Why not host your own? A TV, DVD player and space for three like-minded friends is all you need. Or, if you don’t have the space, take it outside and design your own boot camp. Doing it with friends will provide the motivation and prevent you from skipping workouts, quitting early or slacking off. Make sure someone in your group has the requisite background to give you a good and safe workout.

2. Graduate beyond a personal trainer

I’ve spoken to many trainers who left their jobs at big-box gyms in disgust because they were valued more for their sales skills than their ability to actually, well, train people. Trainers at franchise gyms often don’t encourage independence because they don’t want to lose you as a client. I suggest you get your training elsewhere, like a community centre, university or a training studio. Find someone with excellent qualifications and be clear that you want to learn how to lift weights independently in an agreed-upon number of sessions.

3. Commute by bike
You’ll have to put out money for the cost of your bike. But think of what you’ll save on gas and parking or public transportation. If you live a long way from work, drive part of the way, park in a free area and bike the rest of the distance. Bike commuting takes a bit of getting used to in terms of work clothes and showering, but with practice it can be done. In fact, the Chatelaine staffers have plenty of handy tips for cycling to work — without ending up a hot and sweaty mess.

4. Build an at-home gym
There are a few ways to do this depending on your space and budget. I went whole-hog, taking over half the basement and (temporarily) annoying my wife. All in all, it cost about $2,000, but I’m in my second year of not paying $900 annually for a gym membership, so it has almost paid me back. Motivation can be a struggle with the home gym, so I use loud music and tactics like leaping out of my chair and committing to “just five minutes” of a workout to get me going. I also rope in family members — even my 12-year-old daughter will join me for a perfectly safe workout. If you’re tight for space, and want to spend less, check out the 10 most-effective, inexpensive and space-saving home fitness pieces. A good starting point is the TRX, a fitness ball, exercise bands, dumbbells and a simple weightlighting bench.

5. Save on fitness fashion
Fancy workout clothes can cost three times as much as what you can get at a department store. But are they three times better? Do they look three times nicer? Are they going to last three times as long? This seems to be an obvious area for savings — or at least a reason to do some bargain shopping.

James S. Fell is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and owner of

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