Get fit for free – the MoneyAware challenge!

posted by in Saving money

This month our challenge has been to get fit for free. Well, to find ways to get fit for free and give them a good go. God loves a trier, as they say. 

We all know that exercise is good for us. But gym subscriptions can be expensive, and then there’s all the fancy lycra-wear that isn’t strictly necessary but makes you feel the part. And it can be hard to find the time to exercise and, if you’re anything like me, when you do have time exercise is the last thing you feel like doing!

If you do decide you want to get a bit fitter though, at least it needn’t cost you a fortune. Actually, it doesn’t need to cost you anything.

When James first told us his idea for this challenge there was a less-than-enthusiastic reception from the rest of us. James wanted us to find free ways to exercise? And write about it? And post photos of it?! HA!

But begrudgingly we all agreed that it was a pretty good thing to try. Given the number of donuts we’ve consumed in the office recently, we figured it came at quite a good time.

So here are four ways you can get fit for free, whether it’s out in the fresh air, in the comfort of your own home, or with the aid of your trusty phone.

Get fit for free – Rachel and YouTube videos

rachel after fitness video

Rach found that YouTube fitness videos were pretty good fun!

I hate exercise.

There, I said it.

I hate the aches, the pains, how sweaty and yucky it makes me. I hate having to wash my stupid hair afterwards. I hate all the faff it involves when you’re finally done with the whole sorry fiasco.

This is especially true if you go to the gym for your exercise; the journey there, the journey back – who can be bothered with that?

I know that exercising is necessary, but if I could just cut out some of the nonsense surrounding it, the whole ordeal would be much easier.

The beauty of watching free fitness videos on YouTube is threefold:

  1. You can work out anywhere there’s  web connection, whether it’s at home, on your lunch break in the park (if you don’t mind some strange stares) or in your hotel room if you’re on holiday
  2. You can have variety in your workout because there are literally thousands of fitness videos on YouTube to choose from. Many follow different exercise practices such as yoga, aerobics, tai chi and pilates
  3. It’s free, in case that wasn’t clear, and who doesn’t love a freebie?

As well as making workout clothing for women, Sweaty Betty have invited top workout instructors such as Simone de La Rue to create fun, easy to follow workout videos for their YouTube channel.

I gave Simone’s video a try and honestly, I had so much fun! It was truly a full body workout that focused on cardio, upper and lower body and weights (Simone recommended lifting cans of baked beans if you don’t have weights at home – top marks for thriftiness!). I’ve done Simone’s workout four times now and already feel like I’m firming up.

As my truly ‘sweaty betty’ photo confirms, this is a free workout that pays for itself!

James and Zombies, Run!

james on a run

James, after being chased by zombies around his local park

After trying and failing to get into running on several occasions I decided to give Zombies, Run! a go. It’s an app for your phone that plays clips from a story set during the zombie apocalypse. You have to keep running to evade zombies and progress the story.

I found this app really useful to motivate me to keep running. I could listen to the music on my phone most of the time while I ran at my own speed, then occasionally the app cut in to tell me there were zombies chasing me.

It may sound a bit silly, but hearing a zombie breathing down my neck helped me to keep running and listening to the story helped take my mind of the running. I jogged further than I’d normally go and enjoyed the experience more too.

I decided listen to Zombies, Run! while I ambled around my local park. I was too out of shape to keep running for the full 35 minutes that the story ran for but I didn’t rest for too long either, as the audio would cut in to tell me zombies were approaching as soon as I got my breath back.

Zombies, Run! might not be for everyone but if you’re a reluctant runner that needs extra motivation and distraction then this app is a good option. Even better, it’s free. There are paid upgrades available but the free version works great and has plenty of zombie-related running without needing to pay.

Laura and MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal screen grab

MyFitnessPal is more than just a calorie counter

When I heard I’d be testing this ‘calorie-counter and diet-tracker’, I was a bit sceptical.

In the past I’ve not been a fan of calorie-counting apps, mostly because it’s like the digital equivalent of your mum raising her eyebrows and muttering about your arteries every time you eat a cake.

But one of the things I really like about MyFitnessPal is that it doesn’t just count calories. It also takes things like nutrition and fitness into consideration too.

I wasn’t limited to setting weight-loss goals either, so I could use it for other things like reducing my sugar intake or making sure I was getting enough vitamins.

And I didn’t need mad maths skills to use it either (good job, really). There’s a handy scanning option, so when I was eating a packet of crisps I could just use my camera to scan barcode and the app automatically looked it up.

As I do a lot of cooking, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to log the meals I made for myself. But I found that whenever I followed a recipe online I could just copy and paste the link and it matched the ingredients and worked out the calories. You can even add your own recipes too. Genius!

It worked pretty much the same way with logging the exercise I’d done (ahem). When I’d finished logging for the day, I could see in the reporting section how I’d fared against my goals.

To be honest, I find it kind of weird that looking at your phone can make you healthier, but I’ve found it really good for changing some of my habits.

For example, I ate granola for breakfast because I thought it was a healthy choice. Turns out, it’s full of sugar. I’ve now started trying to eat eggs for breakfast instead, but that means having to get up 20 minutes earlier. And those 20 extra minutes in bed are better than eggs.

For a free app, MyFitnessPal is pretty awesome when it comes to motivating you and giving you a better understanding of the food you’re eating. And it’s not just for smartphone users – then you can still use MyFitnessPal through their website. So much for my initial scepticism. If I hadn’t already met my calorie quota for today, I’d be eating my hat.

Jen and walking to work

Leeds sunrise

Walking to work has its benefits!

Exercise isn’t really my thing. I know all about the benefits and I know I should do it, but I just don’t. I tried running a few times and failed, plus dogs kept chasing me in the park and that was a hassle I just didn’t need at 6am. I even got a fitness hula hoop but I quickly became bored of it.

The truth is, I’m lazy and I like to be still for most of the time. That’s just who I am.

However, I’ve always been happy to ditch the bus and walk to work. It’s usually distance that puts me off but now I’ve moved within a reasonable walking distance to work there’s no excuse. Except for rain. Rain is a good excuse to not walk.

Getting the bus to work isn’t an enjoyable experience. It’s always super busy, or late, and some days it just doesn’t turn up at all. Where are you bus? Where are youuu?!

I live 2.3 miles away from work (to be exact) and the walk takes me about 45-50 minutes depending on how lazy I’m feeling. That might seem like a long time but if it means I don’t have to go to the gym then I’m happy.

I’d definitely recommend walking to work if possible. It’s cheap (because it’s free) and a good way to clear your head. It’s even better when my bus drives past packed full of people while I’m enjoying a much more peaceful commute.

In terms of health I’m not sure if I’m any ‘fitter’ as a result. Well, I don’t feel any fitter and there’s still a hill I dread and struggle to walk up daily. I also use the walk as an excuse to chain-eat crisps and other treats throughout the day, so there’s that too.

Obviously, if you’re training for an event like a marathon you’ll need to up your exercise game. However for something a bit lighter, walking is the way forward.

Please note: you should consult your doctor or other health care professional if you have any questions about your health, fitness or the amount of exercise that’s suitable for your situation.

Laura Davies joined the MoneyAware team in May 2014 from a background in public relations. Outside of work, Laura enjoys travelling, reading, drinking tea and spending too much time on Buzzfeed.

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  • Greg Lupus

    Check out Fitatu, it is even better than MFP.