Gyms can often make or break a budget because their prices can go anywhere from modest to exponential, depending on the service they offer. Whether you want particular equipment, want to pay more to be around people, pay more to avoid people, require trained staff or if you’re only able to train at 2 AM, all these factors play a role in how much your membership is going to cost. Long before I started my FIRE journey, fitness was one of the main drivers in my life. I love the feeling of being in good health, having strength, being able to move and do physical tasks to a high standard, to me there’s no greater feeling. But here’s the thing, when I first started I was a broke kid who couldn’t afford to pay for gym memberships, so I learnt to improvise. 8 years later, I’m in a position where I can comfortably afford a gym membership and yet I still don’t use one or feel the need to. This post will teach you how to use your environment to workout for free.
Before you decide on what is right for you, it’s important to decide on what your short and long term fitness goals are. For example, if you are adamant that you want to be a powerlifter and you want to be able to deadlift 200kg, then you’re going to need a setup where you can readily access a barbell and a stack of weight plates. If your goal is simply to lose 10kg, to be able to run a half marathon by Spring, to lose some body fat and gain muscle mass, to be able to play with your kids more or to simply be healthier in general, then it’s more than likely that you don’t need a gym to do this. Once you work out exactly what your fitness goals are, it’s going to be easy to decide on which option is best suited for your specific needs. So now that you have your goal sorted, here are the three cheaper alternatives to paying for a gym membership
Say you just want to get healthier, improve your cardiovascular fitness or lose a few extra kgs. You don’t need a gym for this, you can very easily get a healthier, better physique just by being more physically active. If you live near a beach, you can go there and go swimming. If you live near a good national park you can go hiking. If you live near a decent park, you start jogging around it every second day. If you find that you are unmotivated to do any of these, you can just park further away from places you commonly go to like the shops to boost your activity levels. Simply by using your surrounding environment, you can incorporate enough exercise to help you attain a lot of your fitness aspirations.
Another way to train without paying is to use free fitness services provided by your local council. All over the country, there are free outdoor gyms provided by the council for people to get healthier. They are typically found in local parks and near beaches and nearly every time I visit one, they are empty. These are essentially free, 24/7 gyms that you can access whenever you want for no cost. If you’re unsure on what to do with them and the signs are not giving you enough guidance, look up Calisthenics tutorials on YouTube. I learnt 8 years ago from watching YouTube videos and repeating how to do basic push-ups, pull-ups, dips, squats, lunges, crunches etc. I’m at a point now where I can do advanced gymnastics moves, pull-ups and dips with double my bodyweight added, one arm pull-ups and the list goes on. Simply by using free equipment and free YouTube tutorials, you can get the perks of having a personal trainer and your own 24/7 access gym without paying a cent. The added benefit of this approach and option Number 1 is that you can feel the sun on you, look around and enjoy nature and breath in fresh air while you train. Compare that to being in a damp room filled with testosterone-fuelled meatheads and I know I can say which one I prefer.
The Home Gym – Now let’s just say that you want to put on some serious muscle mass and you have decided that doing body-weight exercises isn’t your cup of tea. Another option that is cheaper than a gym membership is to set up a home gym in your spare room, backyard or garage. Have a look on marketplace, particularly around February/March when everyone is giving up on their New Years Resolutions. You can find gym equipment for less than a quarter of the buying price. Hell, sometimes people even give it away! To get started all you need are a few dumbbells, a barbell, some weight plates and a bench. Similar to option 2, YouTube basic tutorials or find one of your fitness friends to come and train with you to show you the ropes. While the initial startup may be more than the cost of a weekly gym membership, just remember that you aren’t paying a yearly subscription to your home gym. It’s much cheaper in the long run and you get the luxury of doing it whenever you want to and you know that your favourite machine won’t be taken by some chick on her phone, scrolling Instagram for the 20th consecutive minute. It’s a win/win