LOS ANGELES ó The start of a new year inspires many of us to commit to get fit and live healthier. Such an undertaking requires steeling oneís resolve to eat right and exercise. What isnít required is emptying out oneís wallet just to break a sweat and shed a few pounds.
It doesnít cost a dime to go for a run in your neighborhood or at a nearby park. Or to do push-ups, abdominal crunches and other exercises that require only your own body weight as resistance. Set your DVR and do a Zumba or yoga routine in the comfort of your own living room.
But if you feel you need to enlist a personal trainer, turn the spare room into a home gym or join a fitness club, you donít have to spend a bundle. Here are eight tips on how to tackle your New Yearís fitness resolutions without straining your finances.
1. Test your commitment: Are you thinking about joining a gym or buying a pricey treadmill or weightlifting set? A great way to save money on fitness is to not spend it needlessly in the first place. Spend a few weeks regularly working up a sweat running or doing other exercises that donít require equipment. If you can stick to a regular training schedule for a month or two, itís more likely that you will continue doing so once you join a gym.
2. Use free trials and avoid the rush: At the start of a new year, gyms are eager to sign up new members and will let prospective customers try out facilities free of charge for a day, sometimes even a week. If you have several gyms in your area, take advantage of free trial periods before making a commitment.
3. Negotiate: Youíve finished your free trials and youíve chosen your gym. Now dust off your haggling skills. Find rival gymsí ads or offer terms and ask the fitness club of your choice to match the deal. Average dues for fitness clubs that donít offer racquet sports or pools range from $30 to $60 a month, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. But prices can range from $9.99 a month at some basic gyms to $200 at an upscale club.
4. Look at the terms: To reap the biggest savings on a gym contract, opt for a full-year term and pay upfront. Gyms typically offer memberships that run either month-to-month or for a year or more. Members who opt for the flexibility of a monthly deal can expect to pay more over 12 months than someone who signed up for a year contract.
5. Try the buddy system: The association estimates that, on average, a personal training session runs from $38 an hour, on the low end, to $150. One way to cut the cost is to find a trainer who will take on two people at once for less than the combined cost of two individual lessons.
6. Buy more beans: A big part of the fitness equation is eating healthy. Unfortunately, fast-food items and packaged foods are often less expensive than loading up on fruits, vegetables and lean cuts of meats, fish and poultry. Still, one money-saving option is to substitute some red meat with whole grains and beans and legumes.
7. Look to your employer or health plan: Your health insurer or employer may offer a discount to certain gyms or offer nutrition assistance free of charge.
8. Take the no-gym-approach: Go for a hike. Walk or bike to work. Denise Austin, fitness expert and author of ďSide Effect: Skinny,Ē recommends a set of $10 dumbbells, a mat and an exercise DVD. Or just go outside and move around.