I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at the playground with my kids and thought, “Who needs a gym membership?” From pushing them endlessly on swings to using my legs to pump the teeter-totter for a solo rider, (not to mention the monkey bars tempting me with a session of pull-ups), it's easy to squeeze exercise into playtime. Kids are a required accessory, though - I’d look like a heel if I hogged the playground equipment from the kids it was designed for.
Even if you don't have tykes to chase around, there are still ways to get your exercise without having to invest in a pricey gym membership. Here are a few DIY alternatives for setting up a home gym:
Run, Walk, Ride
While we may scoff at the stereotypical “fat American”, Canada has an obesity problem of its own. According to Stats Canada, 18.3% of Canadians 18 or older are considered obese. That’s 4.6 million Canucks. And our sedentary lives are a big part of the problem; many of us sit in our cars on the way to work, sit at a desk all day, then sit on the couch eating munchies and watching TV at the end of the night.
Getting into shape can seem like an intimidating process - but not if you start small. Do little things like getting off the subway or bus a couple stops early and walking the rest of the way, climbing the stairs instead of taking the elevator, or take a brisk walk on your break – instead of eating an unnecessary snack at your desk.
One of my all-time favourite pastimes is to go for a bike ride. It’s free (provided you already own a bike), it’s great exercise, and you get to really explore parts of your city or town that you normally just breeze past in a car.
Use Used Goods
Once exercising starts to become a habit, you’ll want to push yourself a bit, and there's no reason you can’t do it in the comfort of your own home. But why pay full retail price for new weights or a treadmill when you can save? There are always others out there who’ve given up… And, of course, with sites like craigslist and eBay, you don’t have to wait around for garage sale season to score some great deals.
Just be wary of gimmicky products, like those ones with glorified rubber bands that you’ve “seen on TV”. There’s probably a good reason why the current owner is willing to part with it for next to nothing…
Dig for Deals
If you just find it too hard to motivate yourself to exercise at home, it could be worth investing in a membership for the good of your health - but no need to pay full price there either. Throughout the year, most gyms will hold membership drives where they offer reduced monthly rates. Watch for sales around the Christmas holidays (“New Year, New You!”), on the club’s anniversary, when they open a new location and, often enough, on Valentine’s Day. (The underlying insinuation with the latter is that if you were lonely on Valentine’s Day, it’s probably because you’re fat and out of shape…)
You can often find deals in the junk mail that arrives in your door, or on coupon sites like Groupon. And you should also keep your eyes out for new gyms opening in your neighbourhood. To drum up business, they’ll usually offer step discounts on monthly dues and/or waive initiation fees.
Happy with your current club but still looking for a deal? Get a decent quote from another gym and ask your club to match or beat it.