You spend $50 (or more) per month for a gym membership you *sometimes* (read: hardly ever) use. You own more pairs of workout leggings than pants and you say every single month that you’re going to either cancel your gym membership or start using it.
…but you haven’t been to the gym since that summer in ’92 though…
There are more ways to stay active and fit than signing up for a gym membership that you won’t ever use. A gym membership can be boring, can be restrictive, and doesn’t usually inspire novelty and excitement in your fitness routine (running a few miles on the treadmill again. Yay.) It is possible to stay fit, to challenge your body, and to enjoy the process so much that it keeps you from falling into a health rut halfway through the year.
If you’re skeptical, it’s probably because you think you can’t really stay active or improve your fitness in any measurable way with a few Downward Dogs. But, you likely know someone in your office, or a friend of a friend, who loves yoga and has made positive changes in their lifestyle with their yoga practice. Yoga is essentially calisthenics, which is a method of exercising that uses primarily your own body weight and is proven to help you tone and get stronger. Yoga can help you strengthen your joints, increase your flexibility, and it comes with the benefit of teaching you to better meditate and focus. There are numerous resources available to help you learn different poses and flows and poses range from basic to advanced so you can grow as your practice improves. If you like a fast-paced yoga flow that will work up a good sweat, research some Vinyasa flows or try hot yoga. If slow, deliberate moves with long-held poses interests you more, try Yin Yoga. You can practice with instructors on YouTube, find books that break down poses, and you can probably find yoga studios near you that offer drop-in classes with a pay-as-you-go structure.
Parks and greenspaces with tracks are usually readily available for you to walk, run, or jog, even if you live in the city. And if there is an active running community in your town, they usually have the low-down on some pretty amazing trails tucked around the city. You don’t have to strive to run a marathon to justify running; even a 1 mile jog a few times per week can improve your physical and mental fitness significantly. You can choose to run a trail full of beautiful views and peace and quiet to help you recharge at the end of your day or one that offers great people-watching if you prefer a more social run. If you live in a mountainous region, there may be some challenging hiking trails near you that lead to captivating views. Ask around to see if there is a running group in your city that meets periodically to go on short or extended runs or check out your local parks and recreation website to find a park with a scenic trail that you can run a few miles on during the week. Also, check to see if there are any runners websites in your city for running trails because they often have the best kept secrets when it comes to local trails.
Drop In Classes
Many studios offer classes you can take and pay for as you go without having to sign a contract. Whether you like Barre, ballet, rock-climbing, hot yoga, or HIIT, it is easy to find a studio or gym that offers classes you’ll enjoy without having to sign a month-to-month or year-long agreement. And bonus points if you can find one that is locally owned and operated so you can #supportlocal! Taking fitness classes as you like can contribute to a less constrained health routine with less monotony and more spontaneity. But, if you find that you love it and make it part of your regular routine, you can write it into your budget, or you can simply augment your fitness routine by sprinkling in a few of these classes every blue moon. Drop in classes will benefit you when you have an inconsistent schedule or go through alternating busy and slow seasons in your job, but this method of staying active and fit is flexible enough to work for you no matter what your day-to-day looks like. Start by searching for studios that offer the type of classes you’re interested in trying then take a friend or group and commit to trying at least 3 classes. If you enjoy the class you can make it part of your routine but if not, try other classes that studio offers until you find one you love.
If you live in an apartment complex, rent a home in a neighborhood, or live in any type of closed community, chances are good that you have access to a pool for free, or at least for the cost of your neighborhood fees. Take advantage of it during the summer months (or all year long if you are #blessed to have access to an indoor pool) to stay in shape. Swimming is well-known to improve your tone, cardiovascular fitness, and overall health without taking serious taxes from your joints. Just a few laps around the pool everyday can burn hundreds of calories easily without costing you a thing (unless, again… neighborhood association fees). Even if you aren’t a Katie Ledecky-level swimmer or can barely go past the 5 foot mark, swimming a few laps by doggy-paddling can still burn calories and whip you into shape.
If you aren’t a professional dancer or didn’t grow up taking lessons, you might be surprised at how much fun it can be to take dance lessons and how they can help you stay active and fit. You may also be surprised to find that dance class doesn’t always equal “stuffy room full of nanas and papas dancing the Tango”. In most cities there are usually a few groups that offer classes in just about every style of dance you could think of. Whether you want to learn to waltz, tango, plié, swing, or Lindy Hop, there are likely a few fun classes being offered near you. You can burn hundreds of calories during a single 1 hour class and you’ll leave sweaty and tired from all the hard work you put in, but ready for next week’s class. Start by deciding what type of dance you are interested in learning; you can look up a few videos on YouTube to see what interests you. Then search for local classes of that type and plan to attend a few. Bring a friend or go solo and check your ego at the door, but prepare to have the time of your life (pun completely intended).
These are just a few suggestions to help you get started with developing a health and fitness routine that doesn’t require a membership to a boring, one-size-fits-all gym. Gym memberships can be great if you actually use them, but if you know you won’t take advantage of a membership, just cancel it and try to stay fit by taking advantage of what your city has to offer. Staying active may be more fun for you if you include a little variety and you can bring your friends along too. And if you stay active and fit any other way, what is it? Let me know!