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Frugal ways to get in shape

People often compare losing weight and getting into shape, to getting out of debt and becoming financially secure – and if your goal is to start becoming more active, you shouldn’t let a lack of money stop you.

Unfortunately, one of the top excuses people give when their fitness goals fall through is that they can’t afford the cost associated with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Somehow, we have all made the connection that in order to get fit, we need to spend money on equipment, a personal trainer, or a fancy gym membership. But the truth is, you don’t need much money to whip yourself into shape.

You all know that over the past month, I have started working out again in an effort to get back into shape and run a half-marathon next year. Field hockey used to be my life. From age 14-20, I’d play at least twice a day, every day, all year. In my 20’s, I’d play at least 3x/week. But now that I don’t have that, I’m using other forms of exercise to get healthy and fit.

In order to get myself motivated, I started to re-read some notes I wrote a few years ago about frugal exercises and fitness ideas when I was saving up for a down payment and working with a tight budget. Here are a few fun, frugal fitness ideas that I’ve used over the years:

  • Jump rope. This is one of the most underrated pieces of fitness equipment out there, and ropes are great because they are cheap and easy to store away. During field hockey practice, we would often start with a bootcamp circuit workout, and I would always dread the jump rope station because it was so hard to keep going and maintain a decent pace.
  • Exercise ball. A stability ball could very well be the best investment you can make to any home gym. You can use the ball so many different ways to achieve a full body workout. Need inspiration? Check out this website for over 40 different stability ball exercises.
  • Fitness DVDs. You can usually find inexpensive workout DVDs in any thrift shop or second-hand store. I have three DVDs by Jillian Michaels (Yoga Meltdown, 30 Day Shred, No More Trouble Zones). They were all less than $10 each through Amazon, but I got them for free by using Swagbucks. :)
  • Soup cans or water jugs. Hey, don’t judge! :) One of the biggest ways to increase strength is to provide resistance. You don’t need to go out and buy weights to do this – just grab something heavy from the pantry, and go for it. Lately I’ve been using cans of peaches as weights.
  • Chalk ladders. This is one of my favourite frugal ways to exercise. Grab a piece of chalk and draw a ladder on the street or in your driveway. This is a great cardio workout and allows you to practice your agility by running in and out of the ladder rungs. You can make it harder by running through it sideways, backwards, or changing up your running pattern.
  • Stairs. Just head to the nearest set of stairs and start running up and down them. I spent an entire semester of college running up and down stairs a few tunes each week in between my classes.
  • Run to do your errands. When I first moved to Vancouver, if I needed to grab a few things from the grocery store, or pick up a prescription from the drug store, instead of driving, I would grab a backpack and run there instead. Then, with a backpack full of purchases, I would walk back.
  • Work out while watching TV. Instead of sitting on the couch during your favourite TV show, try doing squats, lunges, sit-ups or push-ups during the commercial breaks. I always try to be at least stretching or working with light weights whenever I’m in front of the television.

What are your favourite frugal fitness tips?

Running towards my goals

Because I’ve set a couple of lofty running goals, I have started running again. Last year, I was running at least 5km every morning, and I had gotten to the point where I was running 5km in around 25 minutes – a time I was satisfied with, because I was always improving.

However, three weeks ago when I started running, I could only run 4km before feeling like death. :| Since then, I’ve improved my distance from 4km to 6km, and my 5km time has gone from 29:25 down to 26:39. These are small bit significant improvement for someone who hasn’t been running all year. And it gives me the motivation to keep going.

All it took for me to start running again was making that initial effort. Lacing up my running shoes for the first time, I was full of excuses and doubt. Now, I find that I’m actually looking forward to running. I can’t wait to finish my work day so that I can get outside and make myself better. It’s addicting – like watching my net worth go up (and my debt go down), or calculating how much interest I’m making on my savings. :)

What has really been helping me is the Nike+ running app on my iPhone. I haven’t used that app in a couple of years, so I shouldn’t be surprised at how much it has improved. I love how it breaks down all of the statistics I wish I had for myself – like best times, routes via GPS, elevation, and goal setting. Best of all, it’s free!

I’ve already gotten a few friends to commit to running the 10km and half-marathon next year, so I’m excited to have a few running buddies when I eventually come home. In fact, Nic has even started running with me on the weekends. It’s nice to have people to share goals with, and to be able to encourage each other along the way.

My immediate running goal is to run 10km by my birthday in mid-October.

Turning dreams into goals

Have you noticed now I’m always talking about running more? Almost every month I try to make it a goal to run X amount of times, yet almost every month I never achieve my goal. My intention is to get back into running and enter in a couple of races (it’s been a goal of mine for the last couple of years), but I never wanted to take the plunge and sign up for a race until I knew I could actually run the distances.

But here’s the thing: unless I set a a goal, I’m not going to do anything about it.

It’s the same with finances. It’s great that I wanted to get out of debt, but I did nothing about it for years. It wasn’t until I actually I gave myself a deadline, that I actually got off my butt and created a plan to help me achieve my goal.

When I was a teenager, my dream was to make it to the Olympics in field hockey. So I set myself a series of goals to help me achieve that dream:

  • Run every morning before school
  • Play field hockey 10-12x/week
  • Lift weights 2x/week during my lunch break
  • Try out for every elite team I could
  • Find a part-time job that would be flexible with my sports schedule

I did this from grade 10-12, and I made it on every elite team that I could. I played in the national championships, and as a result of my efforts, I was scouted for major universities in Canada, and eventually earned a full athletic scholarship to a Division 1 university in the USA.

Now, obviously I never made it to the Olympics. I never even made it onto Team Canada. :| But look at what I was able to accomplish by the time I was 19!

What have I accomplished in the last 10 years with my running? Pretty much nothing. Not even a fraction of what I accomplished as a teenager. And that makes me feel pretty bad about myself, considering I really have no excuse. I was busier then, than I am now.

So instead of always talking about getting back into running, and always thinking about how great it would be to start entering races, I’m going to finally do something about it.

That’s why I’ve made a commitment to running by deciding to run in the Times Colonist 10km race in April 2013, as well as the Good Life Fitness Half Marathon in October 2013. 

I’ve never attempted to run more than 12km in my life. So, this will be interested.

We are travelling for most of August, but as soon as I get back, my goal is to run 2-3x/week for 30-45 minutes, and eventually get back to where I was running 5x/week when I get back to Vancouver in mid-December.

Now that I’ve actually written this post out, I am seriously pumped to start running! :)

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