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Skip Gyms, Exercise Outside

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Joining a gym can be very expensive. Between the “initiation” fees and the monthly membership fees, I know some people paying nearly three figures a month for their memberships. We’re fortunate in that our neighborhood gym charges a mere $30 a month per person, but it’s subsidized by our local taxes, which we’d pay regardless of our gym membership. It’s something we do because exercising is important to us and while we don’t go as often as we should, we go more often than we would if we didn’t have the membership!

That being said, there are plenty of free alternatives for us, especially once the weather becomes nicer. The best example we have is when my wife and I take walks around a nearby lake. The entire walk is approximately three miles and has some very minor changes in elevation, so you do get your blood pumping, but it’s hardly a “work out.” But, it’s still three miles of walking and that’s better than not walking three miles, right? Best of all, it’s free. While we have to pay some local taxes that go towards it’s upkeep, anyone can visit the park and enjoy the scenery.

As an added bonus, there are little exercise stations all along the path. There are benches for sit-ups, monkey bars, pull-up bars, balance beams, etc. It’s a fun little diversion and you could work in a pretty good workout using each station. And, if you don’t consider walking to be much of a workout, simply run it. When it’s nicer, I like to go on runs occasionally, when it’s a little warmer than freezing, to get the blood flowing.

What are your favorite free exercise options?

{ 25 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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25 Responses to “Skip Gyms, Exercise Outside”

  1. Our family has found an inexpensive gym near our house that includes a track and basketball courts, both inside. For our entire family of ten we pay about $200 a year. For us, this is a great deal. However, we also exercise outside a lot, especially during the summer. I ride 5 to 30 miles a week on my bicycle.


  2. Jon says:

    Up in Baltimore county, the NCR trail is a good place to walk, run, bike, or fish. They also have exercise stations.

  3. Erlyn3 says:

    There are also cheaper alternatives to gyms. You can buy a set of dumbbells for about $90 or a 300 lbs Olympic barbell set + weight bench for about $200 from Craigslist. A large onetime cost is often cheaper than a recurring fee (although most people would instinctively avoid the high onetime cost in favor of a lower recurring cost).
    The cheapest gym near me is $40 per month. I’m envious of Nate with his $16 per month (for the whole family!).

  4. I gave up on gyms when I left college and could no longer get a free membership. Lifting some serious weights is what I miss most, but I’m just as fit without the gym, so it isn’t worth it.

  5. Dave says:

    I sometimes go to the gym that I have at work, and they only charge $20 per month, so its really reasonable. My back yard also backs up to the local high school sports fields, and there is a running path with little workout stations that lines all the fields, which is really awesome. Its a little cold outside right now, but I plan on running on the path once it gets a little warmer…

  6. H-Town says:

    I’m an adamant fan of outdoor exercise as well! Not only is it FREE, but the opportunity to breathe in fresh air and to have the sun on your face is invaluable. I like to go for hikes/walking, but even biking is something I’ve started to enjoy.

    The only thing that you’re missing out on is the potential to meet new people that you have at the gym. Still, has anyone here ever interacted with anyone they didn’t know at the gym?

  7. tom says:

    I agree, especially in the summer, it is so much more enjoyable to be working out or whatever out in the sun, where the sun is shining on you.

    The gym is enclosed and it feels like a trapped place.

    Now if you do something serious like bodybuilding then i suppose the gym may be a better option but either way, you can still look at alternatives and costs.

  8. Joshua Flores says:

    I am a bodybuilder and I basically could not live without a gym. I don’t have enough space to store all the equipment that I would need to lift since I do a lot of compound lifts. Sorry, but this is an expense I would gladly accept.

  9. jenwindy says:

    I enjoy running and walking outside occasionally, but a big reason I go to the gym is for the group fitness classes. They keep me motivated! But, a less expensive option would be to get the workout DVD’s and tv exercise shows.

  10. I use the gym at the local Marriot hotel near work. They were kind enough to allow any employees working in the business park to take advantage of it. I go at lunch and oddly, for such a great service, there is only a handful of us at any point when I am in there. Which is fine by me as they only have a few machines and free weights. I love it and feel guilty if I don’t go.

  11. For the past few years I lived in a townhome community that had a nice gym and pool which I utilized. I know its wasn’t free, but either way I had to pay the HOA fees.

    I recently moved to a neighborhood without a gym, so I started looking around for a good deal on a gym or a treadmill. The gyms were all pretty expensive, but I ended up finding a great used treadmill on craigslist for $120.

  12. Tim says:

    my wife pays $134/mo for her gym. Her works reimburses her half, so it costs $67/mo. I couldn’t understand it, but she likes this gym a lot. The gym is very nice, not crowded, very close to our house, and the big seller for her is that all the classes like yoga and pilates do not cost extra like other gyms. They also have a class every day that fits into her schedule and is not crowded. So she goes 6 days a week. Although I don’t like working out in gyms myself, I was finally swayed and the cost ends up being very cheap since she takes advantage of 6 classes a week.

  13. jennifer says:

    We finally broke down and bought a treadmill at Costco. (just under $1000). It works for me because I don’t have to drive to/from the gym (saves 25 minutes). I get to pick what I WANT to watch on tv! I get dvds to watch free at the library. I don’t feel guilty when I walk outside (with my gym membership, I kind of always thought I should go there). I don’t have to double check what I am wearing wooohooo! As a large breasted woman (yes, I am blessed), I am always pretty self conscious and end up wearing 2 bras and a shirt—jeeezzz…that is hot sometimes! At home, I get to wear anything! I do miss the exercise classes, but not enough to go back. I go to yoga on occasion at an actual yoga studio–better than my gym. I bought a few free weights and use them more than at the gym–go figure! My husband has a bike trainer and feels the same way. He rides outside when the weather is good and stays inside watching his favorite shows while he cycles. All in all, it has been a a good choice for our family.

    • H-Town says:

      That’s so true for me! When I have a monthly subscription for something, I immediately feel guilty whenever I’m not using it. That’s why I try and avoid getting anything where I pay monthly because I feel the weight of it hanging over me.

  14. Red says:

    I go to a gym that costs $99 per year if you pay each year in full by January 1st. It doesn’t offer any classes, but has a more than enough cardio machines and enough weight equipment for those of us that acutally use it. At 99 a year, I don’t feel bad getting a membership and blowing it off for an outside workout over the summer months (or during the two weeks around finals 4 times a year when I don’t have time to sleep, let alone work out). Summers, i hit the outdoors instead. My county has a beautiful rail trail that is great for biking and running in small chunks throughout the summer. I also drag my friends to play a few hours of sand volleyball at least once a week as we have courts at every park in the county. Talk about a good leg workour, good enough to skip lunges and squats for a week!!!

    I also, prior to this gym belonged to the local YWCA. Membership was about $20 per month. Equipment was older and didn’t look as appealing, but it got the job done for pretty cheap!

  15. Srikkanth Sridhar says:

    I bought a Gym memebership from Costco that is teaming up with 24-hr fitness and offeringm two year memebership for $299. It turns out to be a very good deal at $12.5 per month. But you have to pay extra if you opt for a personal trainer. Still it is a excellent deal.

    • jennifer says:

      Srikkanth–did you sign up recently? That is a great deal! I wonder if that deal is available nationwide?

      • jen says:

        just googled it–it is available nationwide until May of this year. wow! at that price, you can afford to exercise outside on nice days and not feel guilty 🙂

  16. Diane says:

    I love walking our puppy through the neighborhood, or taking her up to the levee along the Mississippi River. I also like biking along the levee.

    My preference is definitely for exercising outsite when possible, but I’m considering a treadmill for bad weather. When we don’t walk I get really cranky!

    I’m also considering a weight bench & free weights for my high school son.

    Getting the equipment would be cheaper over the long run than paying a gym, and less time driving involved.

    The problem is space… I’m planning to clean out the garage in hopes of fitting the equipment in there.

  17. TStrump says:

    I frequently go for walks but I have to confess, I could never give up the gym.
    I’m not sure the free options would be enough for me.
    The trick is to get a gym close to where you live so you’ll use it.
    My gym is a few blocks away.

  18. Jace says:

    We recently joined a fitness boxing club that gives us free access to their weights and fitness equipment and we can take a number of different classes including boxing and kickboxing. It’s better than a generic gym membership because we get a trainer giving us help and tips. We also have scheduled classes so there’s less desire to slack off when you know you have a specific date and time that you need to go. It’s easier to schedule around. We also signed a very aggressive commitment contract so even if we decide to quit we owe the remainder of the year’s dues. Might as well go, we’re paying for it anyway.

  19. Jimmy says:

    There are lots of ‘free’ excercises you can do. The catch? Look in the mirror! Push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, mtn. climbers, squats, yoga, stretching, running…etc. The list goes on and on. Bodyweight excercises are some of the best ones you can do to stay fit and takes very minimal equipment and expense. AND they can be done anywhere!! Just do them!

  20. I absolutely agree with this idea. I take it a step further and spend some of that money that I would have spent at the gym on a football, or a jump rope, or medicine ball. Take the gym home by making little purchases a month that over time will accumulate into a pseudo gym that requires no monthly payments.

    Many of you might not have jumped rope since middle school, but it is quite the workout. Plus it’s super cool if you can jump rope like ROCKY.

  21. Monkey Monk says:

    I used to belong to a tennis club that was in the $120 per month range (had to pay extra for court time).

    I quit a few years ago and built up a network of people to play with on the many local public courts. I play just as much and save over $1000 per year. The biggest downside was that I can only 7-8 months of the year due to Winter . . . so I took up platform tennis which is an awesome winter variation on tennis that is played during the months you don’t play tennis. Win-win.

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