New Year's resolutions tend to focus on health and wealth, which can result in some conflicts. If saving more is at the top of the list, then it's tough to justify the expense of a monthly gym membership, or investing in a trainer or buying the latest exercise gear. But taking better care of our bodies, though, doesn't have to mean taking more money out of our savings.
One of the biggest wastes of money is a monthly gym membership. We get excited, lock into a contract, and then lose our motivation come spring. This year, don't jump into a membership unless you've demonstrated you're committed to regular workouts – just because you start paying $50 a month doesn't mean you're suddenly serious about getting into shape. Set up a home gym next month as the first step. Many sites, like Consumer Reports and LiveStrong.com will give you suggestions for setting up your home gym for under $100. Secondhand sports stores will have some or all of what you need.
If you live in a small space, then commit to a walking or running schedule. In a recent YouTube video, Dr. Mike Evans, a physician at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, explained why walking is the single best thing we can do for our health. And the good part, is that the number one thing we can do for ourselves is also free.
Lots of retailers also have ways to help you get more exercise on the cheap. The Running Room has a free app you can download to calculate your distance and speed, or you can purchase a gadget from a site like Step to Health for less than $30. After setting up an account with this site, you'll start to accumulate points for the steps you take (10,000 steps equals 60 points). You can then redeem those points for discounts at retailers like Gap and Toys R Us. For a few dollars you can also download great running companions. Couch to 5k or Couch to 10k are two of my favourite companion apps.
It's motivating to have a definitive goal for 2012. Signing up for a charity run or walk is a good marker of your progress. Your local Running Room will likely have a list of all upcoming events and you can sign-up for in-store training sessions and train with others for under $100. Meet Up is another inexpensive alternative to find others who are getting fit by starting to run. Free support groups in person, or online, like PEERtrainer will keep you motivated and supported.
Online resources can prove to be your cheapest ally in getting fit this winter. Canadian Living is offering a free 6-Week online Slim-Down program and each day you'll receive nutrition tips and workout videos to kick-start your new plan. Sites like YogaToday.com offer free trials and regular free classes and downloadable classes for under $5. Women's Health Magazine also offers companion apps for most workouts as well as food guides for just a few dollars.
When it comes to equipment for getting started, recognize that it doesn't require a big investment. Check out Consumer Reports for a guide to the best athletic shoes and ShopItToMe.com will send you alerts when workout clothes or shoes in your size go on sale online.
When you are regularly working out, then take advantage of the free trial periods offered at gyms close to your work or home to see if it's a good fit and worth the extra costs, but start with the freebies and inexpensive online or in-store classes to get started this January.