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We are firm believers that the best bikini body is the one you've got right now.
So we tend to ignore the pre-summer work-off-the-winter-pounds hysteria. But as the temperatures rise, our energy levels do tend to drop — and exercising really gives the best boost.
As you can imagine, we are huge fans of doing it on the cheap. So we asked fitness and financial experts to weigh in on some surprising ways to break a sweat without breaking the bank.
1. Take Advantage of Summer Deals
As sunny weather arrives, more and more people opt out of their gym memberships in favor of outdoor activities. While this is bad news for gyms, it can mean you get a waived signup fee or lower monthly charge.
Also look for introductory offers, as gyms and studios often have deals for new clients, recommends Katharine Perry, associate financial consultant at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh. “Some places I’ve seen give you free classes, or a whole week to work out."
2. Search For Email Promotions
Try searching your own inbox for a bargain: You may have missed a great rate on a set of fitness classes offered by a third-party service like LivingSocial or Groupon.
Look for terms like “cycle,” “barre” or “fitness.” (A search through my own inbox yielded a 45-minute private dance lesson for $100 off through LivingSocial and two weeks of unlimited Pure Barre classes for $45.) And if you don’t subscribe to any of these promotional emails, you may want to while you’re in the market for a new class or gym.
3. Take Your Workout Outdoors
When weather allows, the best gym is right outside your front door. Try running or walking around your neighborhood, dust off that bicycle or play tennis at a local public court. For some simple bodyweight exercises, like pull-ups or squats, hit up your local park or playground.
“I would recommend picking five bodyweight workouts and doing eight to 12 reps of each for three sets,” says Alice Williams, a health and fitness enthusiast and creator of the Honestly Fitness blog. “That usually gives someone a decent and challenging workout.”
4. Download a Workout App
Ask a personal trainer about online exercise videos and you’ll get mixed responses. On the one hand, they're free and can whip you into shape; on the other hand, many so-called “experts” post workouts that can actually cause injury or harm, says Sharissa Reichert, owner of Ben-Fits PT and a Brooklyn-based personal trainer. “Don’t just do any workout you see from YouTube — there’s so much bad stuff on there, even dangerous stuff,” she cautions.
Personal trainer and nutritionist Callie Exas recommends Daily Burn, a $19.95-a-month workout app for people who don't belong to a gym and still want to be part of a fitness community, as well as Jillian Michaels’ "30-Day Shred" DVDs. But there are lots of other free and cheap options out there — just make sure they're from accredited sources.
5. Find Free Community Classes
Athletic retailers such as Lululemon hold weekly free yoga sessions or pop-up classes in their stores. And many fitness franchises hold free public classes periodically — you just have to be on the lookout!
Katie Christy, an accredited financial counselor, CrossFit Level 1 trainer and founder of Activate Your Talent, also suggests seeking groups of people — either through a networking service like MeetUp or Facebook, or by an online search — that hold free community workouts.
“These groups have sprung up nationwide and offer everything from HIIT classes in the park to yoga sessions on the beach,” Christy says. ”Not only do you get a great workout at no cost, but you also get linked into a fit community that provides additional opportunities for connections and workout sessions.”
6. Set Up Your Own Personal Gym
If you have some extra space in your home, think about making your own gym.
“For the cost of one year of a moderately priced gym membership, you can procure all the tools necessary to get a great workout at home,” says Christy. “I would recommend starting your home gym with a TRX trainer, kettle bell and jump rope. These pieces can provide both strength and endurance training options at home and on the road.”
7. Buy in Bulk
For most gyms and fitness studios, the more services you buy up front, the lower your daily price of getting fit will be (which explains why a two-year membership at your gym often costs less than a one-year membership).
Plus, knowing that you’ve already paid can be a great motivator to show up, says Exas.
8. Join a Basic Gym
If all you need is a treadmill and a set of dumbbells, you can save a lot at a bare-bones gym. National chains such as Planet Fitness offer great rates ($10 a month or less) for a no-frills workout. Search “cheap gyms” in your city to see what's out there.
9. Work Out During the Day
If you work from home, or can take a fitness break between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., many pricey gyms will offer memberships at steep discounts for non-peak hours, according to Reichert. While you won’t have access to the facilities during prime times (mornings and evenings), you can save a lot of money.