Category Archives: biking

Sweating on the Cheap

So after Wednesday’s post on getting past your excuses for not working out, my friend Kira asked yet another great question:  “Okay here’s another excuse … money. Say you get bored to death running (or get too many weird pains), but you can’t afford a gym membership or sports equipment. I personally would love to go to a climbing gym regularly but I can’t afford it. I would also love to hire a personal trainer, but clearly, same issue. Any thoughts on this one?”

Hang onto your money, girlfriend.

For some reason, even though I’m a semi-broke twenty something myself, this excuse didn’t even occur to me.  Maybe it’s because I work at gyms or the fact that I got an amazing deal on my own gym membership (I now pay $9 per month for the rest of my life!) or the fact that I just can’t imagine a life without exercise.  Whatever the reason, I’m always fretting about money, so it’s crazy that I didn’t think of this one!  But once it was brought to my attention, I couldn’t stop thinking of new ways to sweat for very little money!  Here’s a somewhat abbreviated list for those of you who, like me, don’t have dollar bills falling out of your pockets:   

1) Use what you have.  Now let’s start with the basics. While Kira mentioned that she didn’t love running, some of you might.  I’m guessing you already have a pair of shoes, and that’s all you need (besides yourself), so give it a try! Add in intervals by sprinting on the choruses of your workouts songs if you’re listening to music, or, if you’re not, decide on a certain number of blocks you’ll go all out for.  And there’s no shame in doing a walk-run combo if that’s what gets you moving.  If you’re still not a fan of pounding the pavement, try biking!  I’m guessing that about half of you have an old mountain bike from Target in the garage or stuck in storage somewhere.  And if you don’t have it, I bet your parents still do, so if you live close enough for you or them to drive, throw it in the trunk on the next visit and you’ll be good to go (at least until it starts snowing here in the Midwest)! 

As far as strength training goes, use your own body weight!  Pushups, squats, and situps are awesome moves that require nothing but your own fabulous self.  Once you master these, add weight with household items (as silly as it sounds, fill up old milk jugs with sand, even!) or try standing on one leg to make them harder.  If you really can’t afford a gym membership, you already have everything you need to cover all of the basics.  Trust me.   

2) Buy used.  If you don’t have a bike or other exercise gear, and buying new is out of the question, try craigslist.  Honestly, you can find anything on there, and some people are selling some pretty nice exercise equipment in the Beauty + Health section.  A client of mine bought a never-been-used wetsuit for a Tri, and I’ve even seen someone selling their gym membership for cheaper, so be on the lookout for those bikes as well as things you wouldn’t expect!  If you have a Play It Again Sports or other used sporting goods store in your area, check it out as well!  Sure, some things might gross you out to buy used, but a soccer ball or basketball or set of dumbbells is still the same, even if it did have a previous owner.   

3) Learn to share.  The things we learned in kindergarten are still valuable today.  Sharing or splitting the cost of things is a HUGE money saver.  Really want to hire a personal trainer for a few sessions?  Find a friend or two who does too, and halve your cost!  Honestly, most personal trainers (especially newer ones at big gyms who need clients desperately!), are willing to work two people out for the cost of one (sometimes a little more, but your cost is still lower than hiring one on your own), because it’s not much extra work and they’re still making the same amount of money for an hour of work.  Recruit a third friend and your individual cost will go down by a lot even if the overall price goes up a tiny bit.  (Note: with this situation, don’t expect the same individual attention you might get if it were just one or two of you, though.  When training three or four, it gets hard to focus entirely on every single person in the group.)  There are even tons of places that offer cheaper group training (like Motiv in the Chicago area) or pre-set workout plans available to their members (check out TEAMiFIT, also in Chicago). 

However, if a gym membership and split personal training sessions are still a stretch, check out some do-it-yourself programs that you can split with friends.  You buy the P90X or other workout program between four friends and have up to 3 months of workouts for next to nothing!  Do it at a different pal’s house every week to be fair, and make copies of any written instructions.  You’ll all reap the benefits!  You could also host a workout video swap, and have your friends bring all of their used CoreFusion, step aerobics, and yoga DVDS that they aren’t using anymore.  Everyone will be able to find something that they haven’t tried before, and no one loses any money!  You can always get your DVD back after letting the other person try it.   

4) Look for deals!  Call your local gyms and see if they’re running any specials and if they offer any additional discounts for students or family members or people in a certain profession.  If you really want to try a gym, this is key!  I know that when I worked at Bally, they were always offering month-to-month memberships for 20 to 30 bucks!  They might not be the fanciest gyms, but they have all of the basics and even some classes!  Basic gym is better than no gym, my friends.  Call up gyms in your area to see if they do anything similar. 

Additionally, I have found a ton of really cool stuff online by signing up for email updates from Groupon, Tippr, and Living Social Deals.  They’ve got them for all of the major cities and surrounding areas, so I bet you’ll be able to find something!  I recently bought a month of hardcore bootcamp classes for only $20 from Tippr, and I’m eyeing today’s deal on Groupon for two months of unlimited Bikram for only $39.  And for just new and cheap ideas, check out Vital Juice.  I get an email update for all sorts of fun activities, and they even do an email blast on free healthy things to do in your city! Seriously, this one is just about being resourceful!

5) Take advantage.  Are you sure there aren’t services available to you, for free, that you just haven’t been paying attention to?  Does your office hold a before-work bootcamp or fitness class to all employees?  If not, would they do something similar to lower their insurance premiums? (Ask them!  And if you’re in the Chicago area, tell them you know of someone who can lead the class!)  Is there a running group that meets nearby a few times per week?  Most groups have a website or ad on craigslist, so get to Googling!  You could even start your own by tweeting or Facebooking that you want to start a group for swimming or climbing or cross-training… whatever!  I bet you’ll get a ton of feedback from people just like you! 

Do you have a library card?  Head over to the nearest library and check out a workout video or fitness book (FYI, books usually have longer check-out periods so make sure you turn those DVDs in on time to avoid fees!) Does your local high school have a rec center or pool that’s open to the public for a small fee per visit?  Try it!  It’s like a gym, but on a pay-very-little-per-visit basis.  Does a local workout facility or yoga studio host free weekly classes that you can join in on?  I know that even my local Lululemon store has free Sunday classes right in the store!  Even if these free classes are being used to plug a business’ services or clothes, so what?  It doesn’t mean you have to buy anything!  Go and take advantage!

I’m sure there are a million other ways to sweat on the cheap (or for free!), but this is what I’ve got for now! Have you tried any of these tips?  Would you be willing to?  Got any other inspired tips for me?  Like, I said, sharing is an awesome way to get fit for free –and that includes sharing information, so if you have any more ideas, spill!

New Month, New Goals: February

New month, new goals! As I mentioned last month, I decided not to make any New Year’s resolutions, but I did take a page from my friend Rachel’s book and came up with goals for January alone. I want to carry this on throughout the year to see what I can accomplish when I break my big goals down into smaller, more doable steps.
So here are my new goals for February to help me make 2010 my healthiest, happiest year yet!
  1. Get more sleep: OK, repeat goal. While this one wasn’t a complete and utter fail last month, I did not get my seven hours at least five nights per week. I got close with six many nights, but still. I didn’t accomplish what I wanted to. So this month, I’m going to make sleep even more of a priority. But I’m going to lower the bar a teeny bit. I’m going to aim for seven hours at least four nights a week this month. (Give me your tips for getting to bed earlier! I’ll take all the help I can get!)
  2. Incorporate new types of cardio into my routine: Since I started thinking about doing the Chicago Triathlon, I’ve been considering how I can take my workouts up a notch. The other day I made a fun cardio circuit for myself that involved a lot of spinning with some stair and lap running mixed in there . And I have to say, I kind of loved it! So I want to take at least two spinning classes this month, since I’ve tried it before but never really given it a chance. If I want to prep for the Tri (goal for March is to actually SIGN UP), I need to start now – but indoors because there is no way in HELL I’m biking along the lake with a -10 windchill.
  3. Focus on the positive: I’ve always considered myself a pretty upbeat person, but I have also always had a problem with getting into my own head too much and overanalyzing everything (no, really, everything), and then dwelling on the negatives of a given experience. So this month, at least a three times a week, I want to write down the positive things that happen to me during the day. I was going through old texts today, and I came across some I had saved because they were from the really uplifting people in my life. My parents telling me how proud they are of me, an inspiring friend reminding me that I’m capable of anything, my boss encouraging me and letting me know I’m doing “one hell of a job.” I saved those for a reason – because I wanted to remind myself to focus on the positive – so I need to do that everyday! 
  4. Read more than just the back three pages of the Red Eye newspaper: Because scanning the celebrity gossip and doing the crossword puzzle isn’t really helping me become a more well-rounded person.
What about you?  Got any new goals for this month?  How did your January goals go?  And if you did make New Year’s resolutions, are you still going strong?  I want to know!

How to Not Get Hit On at the Gym

A little while back, Rachel over at sheddingit.com posted a video about how to catch your gym crush’s eye and seal the deal. Well as a personal trainer at the gym, I get hit on enough already, and sometimes would like to minimize that. I hear everything, even when I’m not looking so cute, so sometimes not getting male attention at the gym is just fine with me. Yes, I’ll give you a free workout, but not that kind. No, I will not help you stretch, especially when you ask me like that.

SO, here are my (almost) surefire ways to keep the menfolk at bay if you’re like me and sometimes just want to be left the hell alone during your workouts.

If you’re on the gym floor:

The look: Start by wearing NO makeup. The darker the circles and duller the skin, the better. The hair should definitely be in a ponytail, and if you’ve gone a few days without washing, it’s going to be even more advantageous to you. Next, pick out your rattiest, oldest, baggiest t-shirt. If you have huge b-ball shorts to go along with it, AWESOME. You’re in business. Don’t let any hint of your shape be seen. The more you look like a walking sack, the less positive attention you’ll attract. Oh, and make sure nothing matches. If you want to go the other direction and dress like you’re in an 80s jazzercise video, you can play up the crazy, out-of-touch thing. Just make sure you don’t look like Jane Fonda circa 1985 in your getup, or you’ll probably get hit on even more, especially by the older gentlemen at the gym who long for the days of neon and spandex gone by.

Behavior: First, make sure that iPod/mp3 player/Discman/Walkman (this goes nicely with the 80s aerobics look) is in plain sight. As a trainer who talks to randoms during their workouts all day long, I know it’s a lot less intimidating to come up to someone who is sans music. If you don’t think your little earbuds will be effective enough, go all out with the big recording studio headphones. You’ll look unapproachable and slightly crazy. Perfect. Make sure you rock out to your music as hard as you can, without screwing up your workout, of course. You want to make the point that you are there to actually work out, so don’t go overboard with the antics.

If you’re lifting, go ahead and grunt a little to get your point across. Do NOT drop the weights though. You can keep people away without pissing them off. If you’re doing cardio, do it hard. The easiest people to approach are the ones who are taking it easy on the ellipticals or walking on the treadmills, looking like they’re out for a nice Sunday stroll. You shouldn’t be doing either of these anyway if you’re looking to get an effective workout, but let this serve as a reminder. Ladies, you have to SWEAT. Run or bike hard, and at no point should you smile. Go ahead, look mean. You have my permission.

Bonus Points: Don’t wear deodorant. Yeah. This tip is not for the faint of heart, and I don’t really recommend it, but I’ll give extra credit to whoever tries it as a last resort to get rid of unwanted attention. But again, a last resort. Like, VERY last.

In the pool:

This strategy is WAY easier, since this kind of workout comes with its own inherent buffers. First, you have the water. As soon as you go under, you are excused from communicating with anyone. Only the bold will jump in front of you while you’re doing laps in order to start a conversation. And at that point, you have the right to not only look mean, but act mean as well. (I mean, who does that?) However, there are those that just don’t get it, so if you’re going to swim, again, swim hard. No leisurely laps for you. This way you look like you mean business (which you do, right?). Another built-in advantage to swimming is that almost no one looks cute while doing it. Speedos are not flattering by any means, swim caps make you look bald, and your goggles will inevitably leave red rings around your eyes. Plus, have you seen the faces swimmers make while breathing? Mean muggin’ for sure.

So there you have it. Next time you just want to exercise in peace, try one of these tactics, and I can almost* guarantee a flirt-free workout.

*Exceptions do apply, as with the especially oblivious/persistent and those that have seen you looking totally normal and cute at the gym who may or may not be stalking you.

A Runner’s Low

Dear Running,
I don’t know how to say this but… I think we need to take a break. I know what you’re thinking, by ‘break’ I mean that it’s over, right? No, no, no, please. Let me reassure you that this is not what I mean at all. Because I love you, I really do. Our history is a long and complicated one, but one with more happiness than sadness, and I am just not willing to give you up.
But we still need to take a break. You say you’ll try harder because you want to make this work. I say we’ve been trying, and I’m getting more and more frustrated. You say you didn’t realize how bad the problem was getting. And I say, how could you not? My runs have dwindled to maybe once a week, and I haven’t had a good run outside since St. Patrick’s Day. The thing is, we both saw this coming, and we were both just waiting for the other to say something. You, dragging my feet when I try to break into a trot. Me, resisting your allure when you call to me on beautiful spring days from the lakefront trail just two blocks from my apartment.
In fact, I have a confession to make. You’ve been so hard on me and my shins and my ego lately that, well, I’ve been driven into the arms of another. I know I’ve always been faithful to you, but I just needed some time away and the elliptical understood me! You know, I really don’t like it much, and I don’t really know how much it’s doing for me, but it doesn’t hurt me. Probably won’t be too upset when I break things off and dash back to you, either. It’s like that cute boy I had a thing with a few summers ago, who I didn’t really have any interest in, but who didn’t really give me any grief either. The elliptical may just sit there and look pretty and not contribute at ALL while I do my thing and mindlessly burn calories, but it doesn’t cause me the pain that you have over the last few months.
And Running, sweetheart, the pain is not just physical. So my hormones went crazy and living through a winter in Chicago made my frame a little heavier. Is that any reason to slow my pace down by the amount that you did? Of course I can still run — it’s not like I’m carrying around an extra person or anything — but did you have to make me feel like I had never been a runner ever before in my life? Did you have to take my 7:30 pace away from me, and hand me a 9-minute mile on a good day, even through months of work? You make me feel lazy and like there is something wrong with me. I know you don’t mean to, but you hurt me psychologically and emotionally. Lately, I’ve caught you checking out other girls (and even guys!), and you’ve been sending signals that tell me you don’t think I’m a ‘runner’ anymore.
So, again, we need to take a break. Like I said, I love you, but I think some time apart would do us both some good. You go wild on the bike path next to Lakeshore drive. Have a ball down by North Avenue Beach. And I will enjoy the company of my trusty ten speed (once the tires are blown back up) and of the pool and the weights at the gym. We’ll go out and see other people (activities?), and we will eventually realize how much we miss one another. I’ll still wear your shoes and think of you fondly, and you’ll make someone else pick up their pace when a really great/horrible pop song comes on. You’ll miss my dedication to you, and I’ll miss how badass I feel after finishing a ten miler and how hot my legs look in a dress. Don’t roll your eyes at me, you know my vanity is endearing.
Keep in touch, with all my heart, xoxo, etc, etc,
Heather
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