Getting motivated to work out, sticking with it, and keeping your workout habits consistent are hard enough without also adding in payments and fees. The truth is, there are tons of free resources available if you know where to look. Good news, everyone! I’ve been looking for years, and I’m notoriously cheap, so I want to share the bounty of free fitness resources with you.
I’m basically the George Costanza of the fitness world.
I am SUCH a Fitness Blender fangirl. I use it constantly. Skip the website and go straight to their YouTube channel. There are tons of videos that range from short discussions by Daniel and Kelli where they explain things like why not everyone should be trying to get a sixpack, to totally brutal hour-long HIIT workouts, and even five day challenges and shorter workouts (from five to thirty-ish minutes) to fit your schedule. I love their strength training videos because I still don’t feel like I really know how to put my own lifting workout together, so I can pull one up on my phone in the weight room and just follow along with free weights. Then sit back and get ready for those BIG GAINS. Ha ha. But seriously. Fitness Blender is amazing, and if you’re really a pro workout-mom, you can do their HIIT workouts with arm gestures and silly faces and convince your kid that it’s a game. Trust me. That might save you someday.
They’re all over the internet and there are tons of them, but the Hal Higdons are by far my favorite. Usually when you start running, you do things in the beginning that just kind of work well so you never change them. Hal Higdon plans are like that for me. They’ve always worked well. You can get way more complicated, though, and hit up sources like Runner’s World for training plans that include everything from fartleks to speed work to race pace. I’m too lazy to learn all the acronyms and abbreviations, but if that’s your thing—go for the gold.
I have a love-hate relationship with MyFitnessPal. I love it because it has helped me a lot in the past. When I wanted to figure out where my calories were going and why I was still overweight even when I could run a half marathon, MFP helped a lot. When I didn’t know recipes and wanted motivation, their forums were great. But…once you fall off the logging-your-food wagon and realize that you’re not going to track calories for the rest of your life, you come to understand that you have to find another way to bring balance instead of obsessively scanning and monitoring your food and workouts. Then MFP goes by the wayside. So it depends on where you are in your fitness/weight-loss journey and what your goals are, but MFP can be a totally kickass free resource.
Workout Tracking Apps
This is a tough one because I still haven’t found one that I’m in love with. I need to try Strava. I’ve done Map My Run and it’s okay, but it doesn’t seem to work that well on my phone. Tracks to Miles was pointless, except to integrate with Daily Mile. Hey Daily Mile: get your own app that actually works and I’ll come back! I like your social features! Other suggestions? Let me know and I’ll look into them. Some of the Nike Running features look cool, but I haven’t tried it. Runtastic seems to have a good following. Worth looking into at least. I mean, they’re free.
30 Day Challenges and Bodyweight Exercises
You can get a good bodyweight exercise anywhere, and there are some good free workout apps like the 30 Day Challenges that give you plans to follow. Sure, you can usually max out the efficacy of bodyweight workouts after a while, but that’s when you can do things like make a weight vest or add weight to your appendages. It will be FUN!
Uh, the Internet?
Seriously. Google things and you will find the most amazing instructions for how to make them for free or cheap. Don’t want to spend money on a foam roller? Use a rolling pin. Think $40 is stupid money to spend on a medicine ball? Make one from a basketball and some free sand. There’s a lot of good stuff out there! At the end of the day, you have to do what’s right for you, so it may not be worth it to make something and save $10 but spend all weekend doing it, you know what I mean? Still, sometimes making it is half the fun, so go for it!
BodyFit by Amy
I’m a fan of the BodyFit by Amy TRX workout, and some of her other videos have come in handy. I went super Costanza-style and made my own TRX knock-off straps because I seriously was not about to pay over $100 for some $12 tie-down straps from Home Depot that come in a fancy workout color. I know, I know, disclaimer disclaimer, don’t do this at home, you’ll hurt yourself, they’re not meant for that, blah blah blah. Anyway, she’s a good workout coach and not annoying like so many of the fitness people. I think she’s probably nice in real life. That helps.
And now for some different advice.
Find some stairs and get ready to rest in peace because they are brutal. Who knew that your own weight and everyday gravity are such jerks? Here in Grand Rapids, there is a huge set of stairs that goes up the side of Division Ave and leads up to Fairbanks St. It’s a seriously great place for a free workout (in the daylight—not a terrible part of town, but look out for creepers). If I had to guess, I’d estimate that roughly 100% of cities over 10,000 probably have at least one place with stairs that you could steal. Generally in tall buildings, no one takes the stairs, so just call ’em up and ask them if you can walk their stairs. Or better yet, find an outdoor venue and use those. Stadiums and arenas, municipal buildings, and parks can be a great resource. Just don’t get hurt and sue someone. I mean, don’t get hurt, you know what I mean?
You ever run in the sand? Talk about dying the fiery death of 1,000 suns. Not great if you have bad knees or weak ankles, but if your doctor clears you for it, hit the beach and get ready to feel completely inadequate (for free!).
I know that they’ll badger you to stay, and call you for like a year, but sometimes if you’re really pressed for cash and are shopping for a gym anyway, you can make the best of some free gym trials. You can make up a back story and persona for yourself. It will be fun. Oh, come on. Most gyms have like a million “members” that never show up. You’re doing them a favor and helping keep the machines oiled.
Free Workout Classes
I’m currently putting together a list of free workout classes in Grand Rapids, but they’re in every city. Churches, community centers, new fitness instructors, and even hospitals and wellness companies put on free fitness classes all the time. Put your ear to the internet-ground and ask around to see if anyone knows of any. You might have to pretend to be religious, but hey, free workout!