Everyone wants to be in shape, but not only is time a concern, more and more often money seems to be an issue. If your budget is tight, check out these tips for getting in shape without changing the shape of your pocketbook.
#1: Walking/running are free.
The easiest form of exercise is one that you can do anywhere, anytime, and best of all, it doesn’t cost a dime. If you live within reasonable distance from work, or the store, or the houses of friends, try walking instead of driving. You’ll find that the more you walk, the larger “reasonable walking distance” becomes.
Being a habitual walker/runner is probably the easiest kind of exerciser to be, as it doesn’t require any particular equipment or clothing. If you feel that this is something that you really enjoy, feel free to add a pedometer, iPod, or some good running shoes to your regime, but keep in mind that these are all accessories. All you really need to get in shape is your feet and a little bit of time.
#2: Start your day with an exercise regime.
You’d be surprised the difference that 15 minutes of stretching or yoga can make in the morning. You’ll have more energy the whole day through, which means that you can get all your work done faster and still have some juice left over to exercise later in the day. If you have the time, a walk or run around the block before work or school can make all the difference; once you’re done, you’ve already gotten your exercising out of the way, had some time to think and clear your head, and woken yourself up. This will allow you to be far more productive during your day, reducing the number of mistakes you’ll make from being groggy. If you’re not big on exercising, working out first thing in the morning prevents you from dreading it all day; instead, it just becomes part of your regular morning ritual.
#3: Avoid eating processed foods.
What, you ask? But they’re so convenient, you say, and they save me so much time. Do they really? Processed foods are filled with preservatives and chemicals that your body has to make an extra effort to break down and expel, and they quite often have little to no nutritional value. This means that you’re eating really just to stop the hunger pains or to fill an emotional void. If you actually want nutrients, then you have to take the time again later to eat again, hoping that meal has enough nutrients to sustain you until the next time another healthy meal comes along. Here’s how it goes: the vitamins that you take into your body don’t stay there forever. Some, like vitamins A and E and K are stored in fat, so they can build up, but only if you get extra in the first place. The ones that are your big energy vitamins, like C and the B-complex, are water-soluble, so if you have more than your body can process at the time, they’ll pass right through you. This means that your body’s gotten all that it needs, so you don’t need to worry anymore, right? Wrong.
The body can’t absorb 100% of anything that you give it when you feed it; the logistics of it just aren’t possible. To take really good care of your body and have all the energy to be your most productive and mentally sound, you need to make sure that each of your meals is balanced and nutritionally sound.
#4: Don’t be a couch potato.
Plain and simple: learn the art of multi-tasking. If you have several jobs that need to be done that also happen to be sedentary, try to knock them out at the same time. If you’re a big tv watcher, use this time to do household chores, stretch, do a quiet exercise, pay bills, or use the computer. Not only will this save you time, as you’ll have accomplished twice as much in the same amount of time, but if you’ve tied in something physical to something stationary (ironing while watching a movie with the kids), then that’s THAT much less time that you’ve spent doing nothing. Your metabolism will stay up and running and your body will thank you.
#5: Don’t be afraid to try those free introductory classes.
Most classes and gyms offer trial periods or free introductory classes. This gives you a chance to go in, scope out the facilities, determine if what they have and what they can specifically offer you is really going to be worth your hard-earned cash.
Keep in mind one important rule: just because you attend an introductory class does not mean that you’re making a commitment. Go ahead and get out there and try some different things. A decent-sized town will have, for instance, somewhere between 5 and 15 martial arts schools, each with their own trial class or period. If you think that this might be something you’re interested in, go ahead and try out ALL of them, just to get a better feel for what they have to offer. This will also give you plenty of time not just to make up your mind what you’re looking for but also to move around finances a bit to see if you can make it work.
#6: Catch some local classes.
Your community is brimming with people who are knowledgable about a variety of things; you may just not know it yet. From yoga instructors to dance class leaders to former junior olympians, your neighborhood has no shortage of people who have mastered a physical craft and are just dying to share it with someone else. Many such individuals are teaching local classes once or twice a week; prices for such classes are usually quite reasonable, and they often come with one of the previously-mentioned free introductory classes.
Don’t see anything that sounds right for you? Sit down and brainstorm with your friends and see what you can work out together. Perhaps your good friend has a black belt in judo and would trade some lessons to get her taxes done. Maybe your co-worker will share her love of jazz dance with you if you’ll mow her lawn for her once every other week. The possibilities are endless – you just need to go out there and find a way to make them work for you.
#7: Check with your work/school for wellness programs.
Most offices and schools offer some kind of wellness program or incentive for their employees. Universities and colleges have gyms available to their students and staff at almost all hours, offering a variety of activities and classes, from yoga and martial arts to swimming and fencing.
Many companies will offer discounts at local gyms or wellness centers. Such incentives might include a free week, package deals for classes or programs, or even a gym of their own at the work site. Be on the lookout for sports teams at your office as well; many businesses have their own teams, whether it be volleyball, soccer, softball, or something else entirely.
#8: Drink lots of ice water.
Not only does water fill you up, studies have shown that ice water will boost your metabolism. Drinking lots of water will also flush all the toxins and impurities out of your system. What does this mean for you? It means that all the junk that’s in your body that’s slowing you down will be on its way out, leaving you with less work for your body to do in its downtime. In the long run, this means that your body can devote more time and energy to breaking down the foods that you eat, toning muscle, and cycling through stored fat.
#9: Start “play dates” with your friends or kids.
If you’re at a loss for time, and you’re wondering how you’re going to fit in work or school (or both) with an active social life – try making your social life a little more active. Invite a friend or co-worker to play a sport or otherwise exercise with you. Most cities have parks with public tennis courts, basketball courts, and soccer fields, so the options are wide open. Take up something that you know nothing about, and take a buddy along. Not only will you get the reward of regular exercise, but you’ll have the chance to bond with your friends and associates as you both learn a new hobby.
If you have kids (or perhaps a sibling, or the children of a good friend), make play dates to go out and do something fun and active with them. This will help fight the nation-wide epidemic of childhood obesity and will help you get in shape (and say that way), and the kids will have the added benefit of your experience and company. You’ll have the chance to make a difference for someone during the years when they really need to know that they’re worthy of adult company and respect.
#10: Know your exercise style and go with it.
Not everyone has what it takes to be an elite gymnast, and that’s perfectly okay. Some people like outdoorsy sports like tennis and soccer while others prefer the cool controlled environments of racquetball and martial arts. Some people have no problem walking in place for hours, and others get antsy without a scenery change. Know your exercise style, whatever it may be.
If you’re easily bored, try a more complex routine with frequent changes. If you want something easy-going and low-stress, try something regular like biking. If you need other people around you, try joining a gym or joining a local team. Whatever you need to get out there and get active, do it – there’s a world of fitness just waiting for you.