If I had a million dollars, I’d buy myself time, a PT and a lifetime membership to one of the amazing gyms that London has to offer. Unfortunately, like the most of my friends living in London, these luxuries are way out of reach. While we may be hearing that “good times” are back on the agenda economically, the reality (especially outside of the capital) seems to paint a different picture.
It seems that in periods of instability like these health is the first thing to be sacrificed. In fact, a recent Legal & General survey revealed that 83% of families with children under 10, living in the UK, think gym memberships are the easiest luxury to give up. Now I don’t want to stand on my soapbox and preach about how healthy body equals healthy mind but it’s remarkable how simply getting the heart pumping for half an hour a day by moving your body can boost your mood. And you don’t have to pay for the privilege or be super-fit to start with. Whatever your age of level of experience, here are 7 ways to get fit(ter) for free.
1. Walk or cycle (part of the way) to work
One of the easiest ways to pack in your cardio is to give it a purpose. Take the commute to work, for example. Most people who work in an office have to travel to an office somehow, so why not ditch the car or public transport and do it by foot or bike? You may actually enjoy it a whole lot more (now the weather has perked up) and be surprised at how walking helps to calm you down and lowers your stress. In fact, just 10 minutes of exercise a day has been shown to improve heart health. A quick cycle to work will make you feel so good as you whizz by all the stressed commuters stuck in a traffic jam. Even if you have to drive to work, you could always park further away to increase your number of daily steps. Try it and you’ll arrive at your desk feeling calm and raring to go.
2. Take the stairs
I know it’s been said again and again but why wouldn’t you take the stairs at work? (Unless you work on the ground floor, duh). You may think it will take you longer but you’ll be surprised. By the time the lift has arrived and you’ve gone through the process of waiting for people to come out so you can enter, then pressed the button and arrived on your floor (perhaps collecting and depositing people on the way), you may as well have walked. Go on, I dare you to try it and time yourself against a colleague. No, it won’t turn you into a triathlete but taking the stairs will get your heart rate up, which is important, for free.
3. Think like a kid
Do you remember all those games that you played as a kid? Skipping, catch, Frisbee, chase….What is stopping you now? Rocky’s favourite skipping is an awesome way to up your fitness levels. Try skipping for a minute and you’ll realise just how challenging it is. My best advice is to work up slowly with two jumps in-between each swing of the rope then progressing to one. Another great one for your cardio and your waist is hula hooping. This may or may not involve extra cost, depending on the model of hula hoop that you intend to buy. Head to the Poundshop or 99p shop and you’ll be laughing your way to fitness as you try to perfect the moves.
4. Team up with mates
It doesn’t matter if you’re completely inept when it comes to hand-eye coordination, a game of rounders with friends is a brilliant way to spend an evening, create team spirit and get moving after a bum-on-seat kind of day. Not only will it leave you feeling energised, you’ll also get in some cardio as you sprint between bases. Five-a-side footie also comes relatively cheaply (on Astroturf) or for free if you’re using your local park. All it will cost you is time trying to convince your friends to take part and that’s nothing the promise of a cheeky victory pint afterwards will not solve.
5. Join your local parkrun
Well, I couldn’t really avoid mentioning running, especially when you probably have an awesome parkrun happening every Saturday in your local park. Once you have paid for the right gear (decent running shoes and sports bra if you’re a girl), running can be a relatively inexpensive activity, depending upon how far you take it. And the free 5K parkrun – a timed race organised by volunteers – may seem intimidating at first but they are honestly there for everyone at all different levels. I have done several in London and in Norfolk and am always amazed at how they bring the community together through running. Even if you think you’re not a runner, this weekly event offers you goals to work towards. Try it and you’ll be converted, I promise.
6. Get involved with a branded community
From Nike Training Club and adidas 26ers to Sweaty Betty and Lululemon, there are now a number of brands who take the word community seriously. I do not joke when I say that Londoners could probably find a free class that they could do almost every day of the week via Nike, adidas, Lululemon, Sweatshop and Sweaty Betty. And those outside of the capital can also get involved with Sweaty Betty, Nike, Sweatshop and adidas (who sponsor parkrun) plus a bunch of other sports shops I’m sure. Salomon for one were inviting keen beans to take part in city trails around the world. If you’re really stuck, then you can always download the NTC (Nike Training Club) app or head to the Sweaty Betty website, where there are plenty of videos for you to use. Whether you want to run faster, improve your flexibility or simply try a new fitness trend (Sweaty Betty are particularly supportive of this), you really have got everything you need at your fingertips.
7. Test out trial offers
Many fitness clubs such as British Military Fitness (BMF) offer the first class for free so you can try before you buy. Be warned though, after one BMF session you may want to go back as they definitely target all the right areas. You are under no obligation however and this can be a way of switching up your fitness routine. Although again, I do warn you. After my 20 day trial with Yotopia Yoga, I’ve been avidly trying to find free classes around the City as I really felt the benefits. Luckily enough, they have been holding free classes in St Martin’s Courtyard, Covent Garden, for the past two Fridays but this week’s is the last one. I have a feeling that I may have to cough up some dosh as this strength-building exercise is exactly what I need after my runs. And I’m prepared to do so as I see the value in these yoga classes and other sessions that I have tried too. But if you’re looking to keep the pennies in your purse, make friends with Google, Yahoo or even Bing and search for studios, free trial fitness passes or you could even offer up your time or skills in exchange for a free class.
How do you keep fit for free? What are your tips? Share your advice and you could win a load of new gear, courtesy of Legal & General. Find out more here.
This blog post was written as part as a competition for Legal & General but contains my own opinions and advice. Disclaimer: I am not a PT or qualified in this field but take an avid interest in fitness and healh.