I had my annual check-up a few weeks ago, and—surprise, surprise—my doctor’s primary advice for me for the coming year was “exercise more.”
Dr. Mix: Are you exercising regularly?
Me: [proudly] Yes! I go to a Pilates class every Saturday.
Dr. Mix: And?
Me: [flumoxed] … And I walk to the bus stop every morning and evening, which takes me about 10 minutes each way.
Dr. Mix: And?
Me: … And? … I walk to the bus stop every day?
Dr. Mix: Not good enough.
I need to exercise more
The crux of her advice was 30 minutes of “gets your heart pumping, makes you want to take a shower when you’re done” exercise, every day. Pilates is great, she assured me, but a) it’s anaerobic, which won’t do diddly for keeping my weigh down as I get older, and b) it’s only once a week.
So the question is, what can I do to get my heart pumping for thirty minutes every day? (I’m ignoring my biggest hurdle, which is making time for exercise. No one “has time” for exercise because most people don’t think exercise is any fun. But it’s important, and my days are not so full that I can’t find 30-45 minutes for exercise.)
Brainstorming my options
I could join a gym
I could take an aerobics class
I could take a different kind of class, like Zumba, that sounds less lame than aerobics (That’s, like, so 80s)
I could take kick-boxing!
I could join an amateur adult soccer team
I could learn a martial art
I could take a dance class
I could go running
I could go for a bike ride
I could go for a brisk walk
Considering the options
In a perfect world, I would join a gym that was convenient to both mine and Ben’s workplaces, that offered myriad classes in aerobics, Zumba, kick-boxing, Pilates, etc. That would cover the first four possibilities in one fell swoop.
The only problem is that gym memberships costs money, and we really don’t have room in our budget for another monthly bill.
I could potentially find a place that offered the class(es) that I want to take independent of any membership to a gym, but while that would be less money, it would still be a recurring bill. When we have a little more money (from paying off a debt or getting a raise), I will definitely pursue this, but in the meantime, we have to go with the free options.
Joining an amateur adult soccer league sounds like a blast, and I don’t believe it costs any money to participate, so that’s a definite possibility. I would have to buy the gear though, so this option is also tabled until our budget recovers a little.
That leaves running, biking, and walking. All of which I can do, for free, with equipment I already own.
I’ve never been a big fan of jogging/running (other than sprinting over short distances), so if that’s the route I choose for my exercise, I’ll have to work up to it.
Biking is one of my favorite activities, and I already own a nice bike, so doing this is just a matter of taking my bike down and going. There are even some nice bike baths right near our house, with just a few hills that suck.
Walking is even easier. A good pair of shoes (and comfy socks), non-binding clothing, and 45 minutes are all it really takes to walk briskly at a pace that raises my heart rate 30 minutes. And the nice bike paths I mentioned are similarly good for walking.
And then there’s something that I didn’t consider: stairs. My mom pointed out that stairs are a great way to exercise, and even just walking up and down them can be an excellent workout. The reason she suggested this is because I work in a high rise, on the the 17th floor. I take the elevator to my floor because, even if I wanted to take the stairs, my key pass won’t get me in the door to my floor from the stairwell. But that doesn’t mean I can’t use the stairs to exercise; I just have to end at the first floor.
Creating an inexpensive exercise plan
The activities I have to choose from are walking/jogging (have to work up the later), bike riding, stair climbing, and Pilates.
Right now I can only afford to do my Pilates class once a week, so I’ll keep that. That covers my exercise for Saturday.
But Monday through Friday (taking Sundays off), I have my choice of three activities. That’s enough variety to keep me from getting bored, and I can do at least one of them indoors, so that covers me in case of inclement weather.
A rough schedule might look like this:
Monday: Get to work at 7:00 am. Take the stairs from Floor 17 to floor 1. Climb from Floor 1 to Floor 10 and back down. Shower as necessary (we have showers and a locker room on our floor). Start work at 8:00 am.
Tuesday: Leave work at 4:30 pm. Go for a bike ride for 45 minutes (from 5:15 pm to 6:00 pm).
Wednesday: Go for a walk after work, from 5:30 to 6:15 pm.
Thursday: Repeat stairs from Monday.
Friday: Repeat biking from Tuesday.
Saturday: Pilates from 10:00 am to 11:00 am.
Sunday: Day off (clean the house and work in the garden).
Total cost for a week’s worth of exercise: $15 for the Pilates class ($13, really b/c I buy the 10 pack), and 5 hours, 15 minutes of time.
One of the biggest traps that people fall into when they want to start exercising is thinking they have to go out and buy all the equipment for their proposed exercise routine before they ever get started. I can guarantee you that everyone you meet has done this at least once. I know I have. The problem, as you probably know, is that buying the “right” equipment before you start can get very expensive, very quickly.
The key to getting started with exercise without blowing your budget is to start with what you have. If you’re going to start walking, for example, just start. Put on your most comfortable pair of shoes and go for a walk. It doesn’t even have to be a quick walk. Just go out and do it. Make it a habit.
After you’ve done it consistently for a month (roughly the amount of time it takes to form a habit), then you can go out and buy a pair of running shoes. (Tennis shoes? trainers? Whatever you want to call them.) “Reward yourself” if you want to think of it like that.
Just remember, “rewarding yourself” doesn’t mean you have to go overboard with the purchase. If you’re not careful, you can spend upwards of $200 or $300 on running shoes. Ouch. Instead, look for sales at sporting goods stores, or go to places like DSW and TJ Maxx to see what they have to offer. When I bought my running shoes, I found them on sale at a local sporting goods store for $20. Original price: $120.
Good quality equipment is out there for a reasonable price, if you’re willing to look for it.